Sports Talk February 2013

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EXCLUSIVE: SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON

COLUMN: PHIL VICKERY

TUITION: DAFYDD JAMES

WIN

Issue 05 February 2013 mesportstalk.com

A DREAM TRIP TO THE FA CUP FINAL

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WARRIORDJOKER NOT HOW WAR-TORN SERBIA CHANGED WORLD NO.1 NOVAK DJOKOVIC FROM A JESTER TO A GLADIATOR

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PRE-MATCH TALK

BREAKING NEWS » CONTENTIOUS VIEWS » TOP TWEETS

THIS MONTH… 10 TIGER WOODS

Organisers of the Dubai Desert Classic confirm they have secured the 14-time Major winner for 2015

18 OWEN TO AL NASR?

New Al Nasr technical director Sven-Goran Eriksson won’t rule out an audacious move for Michael Owen

24 KORMA COMEDIAN

Our very own OAP daredevil Clive Agran wimps out of kitesurfing in favour of stand-up paddleboarding

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PRE-MATCH TALK TIGER CONFIRMED FOR 2015 DESERT CLASSIC

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aving snubbed Dubai for Abu Dhabi in 2012, Tiger Woods will make a sensational return to the Dubai Desert Classic, but not until 2015. The Middle East’s oldest tournament is also frantically trying to tie down the former world No.1 – who has won the super-sized silver jug twice (2006, 2008) – for its 25th anniversary next February, but he is still under contract with the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, a tournament with whom he signed a Middle East-wide exclusivity clause back in January 2012. Woods’ three-year deal does, however, have an opt-out clause, so organisers’ efforts may not be in vain. Either way, Desert Classic director Adrian Flaherty has told Sports Talk that the 37-year-old has already agreed, in principle, to return in 2015. Tiger’s cagey agent, Mark Steinberg, refused to confirm if paperwork had already been drafted, but golf in DUBAi are adamant an agreement has been reached.

masterclass for the thousands who turned up in Tiger red to see him. Thankfully, with world No.4 Justin Rose and talented Dane Thorbjorn Olesen both in contention, a sizeable crowd still attended the final two days, which saw workmanlike Welshman Jamie Donaldson pip both by a single shot. In fairness to Tiger, no golfer wants to “Tiger will be back in Dubai,” a senior stick around when they miss a cut, but source revealed. “We don’t yet know about there is also an argument that if you are next year, but we will get him in 2015 – that is paid big bucks for the week you should be 100 percent. It would make sense to headline given no choice. As Woods ages, he will with him for our 25th anniversary, but we still need to do a lot more to earn his hefty have some work to do to make that happen.” appearance fee – yet right now, he still Based on his abject performance this year calls all the shots. The truth is, the Desert and gloomy demeanour last, lead sponsor Classic will pretty much proffer a blank HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Tourism cheque just to try and bump up their Authority (ADTA) might be quite glad to see dwindling numbers. the back of Woods. Although he Golf in DUBAi purposefully finished third on his 2012 debut, withheld funds to stock up for Tiger was a poor ambassador for @ TI G E R WO ODS THERE’S SO 2014 as they strive to snare some the event, spending most of his METHING SP ECIAL ABOUT TORR EY PINES. IT of the biggest names in golf, hence spare time sulking at Emirates ’S AN HONOUR TO WIN No.7 the weak field at this year’s Palace. After Steinberg had a quiet 5 ON TOUR HERE. tournament, which was won by word, he was noticeably more unheralded Scot Stephen Gallacher outgoing this time around, but still (the nephew of three-time Ryder Cup refused to do any off-course publicity (it captain Bernard Gallacher). That, combined was a real battle for the ADTA just to get with rain on Saturday, created the lowest him to drink a cup of Arabic tea during the turnout in recent history. one photo shoot they were granted). Next February the Desert Classic will Having missed the cut, along with fellow be guaranteed Dubai aficionado Lee Nike stablemate Rory McIlroy, Woods bolted Westwood, but the presence of 2009 straight off to the Farmers Insurance Open at champion McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Martin Torrey Pines – a tournament he went on to Kaymer seems less likely after the trio all win – despite repeated requests for him to suffered bad experiences with golf in stay for the weekend and lay on a Saturday DUBAi. OMEGA ambassador Sergio Garcia is by no means a given either, after strong rumblings emerged that the Swiss Abu Dhabi Golf Championship watchmaker is looking to pull out as Winner: Jamie Donaldson (-14) headline sponsor. Runners-up: Justin Rose, Thorbjorn Olesen (-13) OMEGA might be eyeing up a new partnership with the fast-evolving Qatar Doha Masters Winner: Chris Wood (-18) Masters, where they are already the official Runners-up: Sergio Garcia, timekeeper. As the 2022 World Cup George Coetzee (-17) approaches, the charismatic event at Doha Dubai Desert Classic Golf Club, won this year by giant Winner: Stephen Gallacher (-22) Englishman Chris Wood, could plausibly Runner-up: Richard Sterne (-19) boast the best line-up of the three. It is no secret that organisers have been chasing Tiger’s signature for a while, but having won for a seventh time at the Farmers Insurance Open he is unlikely to make the trip to Doha anytime soon, unless the calendar changes. However, Rose, Garcia and American Jason Dufner are all tipped to return in 2014, and Manchester United fan McIlroy might just be persuaded to attend too, especially if, like this year, Wayne Rooney comes and watches!

DESERT SWING

gossip: US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson could return to the Desert Classic in 2014

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SPORTS TALK

FEBRUARY 2013


WE MIGHT LOOK AT DUBAI IN 2016, ALTHOUGH THE CALENDAR IS PRETTY CONGESTED. WE CAN’T HAVE MORE THAN 20 RACES. I AM NOT, HOWEVER, SAYING I AM AGAINST A DUBAI GP.

ECCLESTONE HINTS AT DUBAI GP

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ormula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told Sports Talk he is in favour of a Dubai Grand Prix, but not before 2016. The 82-year-old was in the UAE to mark a $200 million five-year deal with Emirates for the 2013 season. The Dubai-based airline will join Formula One as a global partner, sponsoring 15 of the 19 races, excluding Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Australia and Monaco – all of which have rival carriers affiliated to them. Emirates’ stranglehold in Dubai, and deep financial resources, could make a much-touted Dubai GP a reality, but Ecclestone feels Dubai Autodrome would need a bit of work first. “Abu Dhabi currently has the track and infrastructure in place, Dubai doesn’t,” revealed Bernie, who confirmed he still plans to be in charge when the Emirates agreement expires in 2018. “The Autodrome would require some redevelopment, and that would take at least three years. We might look at Dubai in 2016, although the calendar is pretty congested. We can’t have more than 20 races. I am not, however, saying I am against a Dubai GP – you certainly can’t exclude the possibility.” Emirates might be eyeing up April’s Bahrain slot, with political unrest again threatening to

2013 F1 CALENDAR 15-17 March: Australian GP 22-24 March: Malaysian GP 12-14 April: Chinese GP 19-21 April: Bahrain GP 10-12 May: Spanish GP 24-26 May: Monaco GP 7-9 June: Canadian GP 28-30 June: British GP 5-7 July: German GP 26-28 July: Hungarian GP 23-25 August: Belgian GP 6-8 September: Italian GP 20-22 September: Singapore GP 4-6 October: Korean GP 11-13 October: Japanese GP 25-27 October: Indian GP 1-3 November: Abu Dhabi GP 15-17 November: United States GP 22-24 November: Brazilian GP

Ecclestone was presented with this amusing steering wheel by the Formula One community for his 80th birthday back in October 2010

overshadow this year’s race, although Ecclestone confirmed it will “100 percent” go ahead in 2013. However, he also let slip Qatar has made initial approaches about taking over that spot should it arise. One thing is for sure, a Formula One Desert Swing (akin to golf’s) would be incredible, and is not beyond the realms of possibility. In the long run, though, having sponsored McLaren in 2006, Emirates may instead prefer to back, or even start, a team. Their CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, refused to dismiss either possibility, while Ecclestone called both ideas “a perfectly natural progression”.

gossip: Jenson Button is set for a cameo on The Simpsons after doing the voiceover for McLaren cartoon Tooned

FEBRUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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PRE-MATCH TALK

GULF CUP GLORY FOR GUTSY UAE

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smail Al Hammadi scored a sublime extra-time winner as the UAE beat six-time champions Iraq 2-1 to win the 21st Gulf Cup of Nations at Bahrain’s National Stadium in Riffa. The 24-year-old Al Ahli striker rounded off a quality move spearheaded by Al Ain star Omar Abdulrahman. The former Manchester City target had put Mahdi Ali’s men in front with a deflected first-half effort, only for Al Sadd’s Younis Mahmoud to equalise courtesy of a fearsome finish with ten minutes remaining.

However, the gritty UAE, playing in front of almost 20,000 fans who had made the short journey over, deserved their win, despite late Iraqi pressure. The day after the victory, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan greeted members of the team, which included 17 Olympians from London 2012, at Al Ain’s Al Rawda Palace, generously offering them an AED 50 million bounty to mark their success – their first in the Gulf Cup since 2007, when captain Ismail Matar scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Oman.

The UAE now turn their attention to reaching the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, having been drawn in a group with Hong Kong, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, who they beat 2-1 in their opening qualifier

gossip: OMAR ABDULRAHMAN COULD JOIN ESPANYOL DESPITE REJECTING A MOVE TO THE LA LIGA SIDE IN 2009

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SPORTS TALK

FEBRUARY 2013


PRE-MATCH TALK

20 BREK SHEA FC DALLAS TO STOKE (£2.5M)

TOP 20 JANUARY TRANSFERS

The lanky American winger forged a cult following at MLS outfit FC Dallas, netting 19 goals in 98 appearances. Off the field, he is a keen Dada artist. This means he finds beauty in the ugliest of things, so will no doubt take great relish in painting manager Tony Pulis!

MOHAMED ABOU-TREIKA BANIYAS TO AL AHLY (LOAN)

Having initially snubbed Baniyas, Abou-Treika agreed an AED 4.4 million loan move to the Pro League outfit, citing the “uncertain” situation in the Egyptian Premier League as the reason for his U-turn. The 34-year-old has won seven league titles, two Egypt Cups and three African Champions League medals with Al Ahly, scoring 105 goals in the process.

18 ANGELO HENRIQUEZ MANCHESTER UNITED TO WIGAN (LOAN) The 18-year-old Chilean, who grew up supporting Manchester City, scored within seven minutes of his Premier League debut, but Wigan still lost 3-2 to Sunderland. It is a move that suits all parties, and one that just might keep the Latics up.

16 LOIC REMY MARSEILLE TO QPR (£8M)

JOE COLE

LIVERPOOL TO WEST HAM (FREE) The 31-year-old returns to Upton Park (where he made 150 appearances between 1998 and 2003) after an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool. The ex-England midfielder was actually starting to show some form at Anfield, scoring twice in his last four outings, but he was never really part of Brendan Rodgers’ long-term plans.

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QPR gatecrashed Remy’s apparent move to Newcastle then, to Magpies fans’ dismay, saw him net 14 minutes into his debut against West Ham. The French international has a clause in his contract which allows him to jump ship if Rangers go down… so he still might end up at St James’ Park come May!

14 LUCIANO BECCHIO LEEDS TO NORWICH (PART-EXCHANGE)

The 29-year-old Argentine was a goal machine at Elland Road. @DJIBRILC ISSE Fuming Leeds fans have somewhat THANKS TO AL L THE QPR FA NS harshly blamed Dubai-based AND SORRY I DIDN’T DO AS GOOD AS LAST SEAS owners GFH Capital’s lack of DJIBRIL CISSE ON. THANKS FOR ALL THE SUPP ambition for his departure, QPR TO AL GHARAFA (LOAN) ORT AND NO DOUBT YOU WILL ST AY UP. although hard-as-nails Welsh Remy’s arrival rendered Cisse surplus to striker Steve Morrison’s move the requirements at Loftus Road, despite almost other way has at least pacified a single-handedly saving QPR from relegation last few dissenters. season. The colourful 31-year-old joins ex-Pompey boss Alain Perrin at the Qatari League side and will wear the No.99 jersey!

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gossip: Turkey and the Czech Republic exchanged carpets NOT pennants before their friendly in Ankara

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SPORTS TALK

FEBRUARY 2013


13 MOUSSA SISSOKO TOULOUSE TO NEWCASTLE (£2.5M)

9 NICOLAS ANELKA SHANGHAI SHENHUA TO JUVENTUS (LOAN)

Mali-born Sissoko is one of a cluster of French signings procured by Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. The 23-year-old, who has often been compared to Patrick Vieira, immediately went down in Magpies folklore after grabbing the equaliser and winner in a 3-2 victory over Chelsea on his home debut.

The ex-Chelsea striker has signed a six-month contract, with the option to stay on for a further year. The 33-year-old, who has a staggering cumulative career transfer fee of £85 million, was also hotly pursued by former club Arsenal. Given his annual salary at Shenhua was a whopping £10 million per year, it is probably fair to say the 33-year-old has taken a pay cut!

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12 JACK BUTLAND BIRMINGHAM TO STOKE (£4M) Last year the 6ft 5in 19-yearold (who is still growing) went from a loan spell at lowly League 2 side Cheltenham to being included in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad. He was touted by Chelsea before choosing Stoke, but has a tough challenge to unseat in-form Bosnian keeper Asmir Begovic.

LEWIS HOLTBY

SCHALKE TO SPURS (£1.25M) Holtby was supposed to arrive at White Hart Lane in the summer on a free transfer, but Tottenham splashed out to land him sooner after Sandro was ruled out for the season with a knee injury. The German Under-21 captain has been a quality player on addictive computer game Championship Manager for the past five years, so he must be good!

CHRISTOPHER SAMBA ANZHI TO QPR (£12.5M)

The ex-Blackburn defender only went to Russia a year ago, but jumped at the chance of a return to England. Despite the inflated price tag, the Congolese centre-back wasn’t even Harry Redknapp’s first choice. Audacious bids were tabled for William Gallas, Michael Dawson and Joleon Lescott first. Samba will fill the void left by Ryan Nelson, who jumped ship to coach MLS side Toronto.

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PHILIPPE COUTINHO

INTER MILAN TO LIVERPOOL (£8.5M) The Brazilian was once dubbed the new Kaka, but the Inter Milan playmaker has struggled to live up to that billing. Last season, Inter farmed him out on loan to Mauricio Pochettino’s Espanyol, where he bagged five goals in 16 starts. Consequently Pochettino, now the Southampton boss, furiously tried to beat Liverpool to his signature.

7 WILFRIED ZAHA CRYSTAL PALACE TO MANCHESTER UNITED (£15M) Zaha has been loaned straight back to Crystal Palace until the end of the season, but the 20-year-old has a very exciting future ahead at Manchester United. He is essentially a less arrogant, more consistent version of Nani, so should eventually replace the Portuguese winger at Old Trafford.

gossip: with ten french players, newcastle united are considering changing their nickname to les toon

FEBRUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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PRE-MATCH TALK

DANIEL STURRIDGE

CHELSEA TO LIVERPOOL (£12M) The fee raised a few eyebrows, but Sturridge has already forged a promising partnership with prodigious Uruguayan diva Luis Suarez. Plus, bizarrely, his presence has given a new lease of life to close friend Jordan Henderson (or ‘Horrendouson’ as former manager Kenny Dalglish used to call him!). Sturridge is surely a player Roy Hodgson can’t ignore for Brazil 2014.

5 DEMBA BA NEWCASTLE TO CHELSEA (£7.5M) Ba is one of the crispest finishers in the game. The Senegalese predator will feed off the likes of Juan Mata and Oscar at Stamford Bridge. The only question is whether there is room upfront for both the 27-year-old and £50 million flop Fernando Torres. If there isn’t, however, you fear more for the out-of-form Spaniard than Ba.

4 MARIO BALOTELLI MANCHESTER CITY TO AC MILAN (£19.5M) Balotelli is über-problematic, but there is no denying he is prodigiously talented too. In fact, according to Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic he is the best player on the planet. Considering that at Inter Milan ‘Super Mario’ courted controversy by frequently donning an AC shirt, it is probably fitting that he has ended up with his boyhood heroes. Sadly, the Premier League has lost a true character, although the Manchester City youth team will be breathing a huge sigh of relief, since they are no longer in danger of having darts lobbed at them by bored Balotelli!

DAVID BECKHAM

LA GALAXY TO PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (FREE)

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WESLEY SNEIJDER

INTER MILAN TO GALATASARAY (£8.3M) Sneijder was mobbed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport when he touched down, and that elation was matched by deflation on Merseyside, with Liverpool hopeful of persuading the Dutch maestro to sign. Sneijder was always going to leave Inter, having not featured for the Nerazzurri since a 2-0 victory at Chievo in September after publicly refusing to take a €2 million pay cut. Instead, he orchestrated a €2 million raise, and with Didier Drogba also at Galatasaray the Turkish giants are not to be discounted in the Champions League.

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Having left LA Galaxy in December, and trained with Arsenal over Christmas, Beckham finally opted for a move to France. The 37-year-old has penned a five-month deal and to his credit (or perhaps for tax purposes) will donate his £1 million annual salary to a children’s charity. The former England captain won’t play every minute for Les Parisiens, but his arrival still marks a shrewd piece of business by PSG’s Qatari president Nasser Al Khelaifi, who will no doubt also employ Becks as an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup.

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@JOEY7BA

RTON

BECKS WILL BE THE SECOND-BES T/BEST LOOK ING ENGLISHMAN IN FRANCE. THAT’LL HURT HIS CONFID ENCE!

gossip: Cesare Prandelli will get a ’mohican’ in honour of MARIO Balotelli if ITALY win the 2014 World Cup

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SPORTS TALK

FEBRUARY 2013


PEP GUARDIOLA

FREE AGENT TO BAYERN MUNICH The top signing of the January window was actually a manager who doesn’t even start work until the summer. Guardiola’s surprise move to Bayern Munich is terrible news for Chelsea and Manchester City, who were frantically chasing his signature. The 41-year-old has signed a three-year deal to replace Jupp Heynckes, who retires at the end of the season. The Spaniard had previously been on a season-long sabbatical after leaving Barcelona, where he won 14 trophies, including two Champions League titles. Guardiola still fancies a spell in England, so when (or perhaps if!) Sir Alex Ferguson finally calls it a day he will be favourite for the Manchester United job.

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gossip: Paul Scholes has signed up for a charity bike ride which coincides with may’s Champions League final

FEBRUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON

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SPORTS TALK

FEBRUARY 2013


OWEN COULD JOIN SVEN AT AL NASR NEW AL NASR TECHNICAL DIRECTOR SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON TELLS BEN JACOBS HE MIGHT LURE MICHAEL OWEN TO THE AL-MAKTOUM STADIUM

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ormer England and Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has been appointed technical director at Dubaibased Pro League outfit Al Nasr. The 64-year-old has penned an 18-month deal to oversee transfers and nurture young Emirati talent. The Swede snubbed offers from Ukraine and German second division side 1860 Munich in order to work alongside coach Walter Zenga, who he signed for Sampdoria in 1994. With Al Nasr struggling to qualify for the Asian Champions League, the former Italy keeper, who played every game for the Azzurri at the 1990 World Cup, could be axed in favour of his former boss, although Sven insists he has no interest in managing the side. Instead, he is focused on using his extensive contact book to bring in some world-class footballers, potentially including former England striker Michael Owen.

EXCLUSIVE SVENGORAN ERIKSSON FEBRUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON Is signing Owen a realistic possibility? I still speak to Michael quite often, and I know he is looking for one last challenge after Stoke. If he wants to come to Al Nasr we would welcome him with open arms. I want to help bring in the highest quality players possible, and Michael certainly falls into that category. He is a realistic target because he almost moved to the UAE last year. However, I tried to sign him at Leicester and he wasn’t interested in dropping out of the Premier League. The Pro League is of a considerably lower standard than the Championship, so that might put him off – plus I think, right now, he just wants to fight for his place in the Stoke first team.

Have you, or Zenga, got control over transfers? One of my main roles is to bring in a few foreign talents. The idea is for me and Walter to work together. Of course, he will have his own ideas, but I have been hired to exploit some of my contacts and do a bit of scouting. That is not my only responsibility, though. Al Nasr want me to help integrate the youth and first team, and look at other vital logistical aspects, like how the players train and what they eat. I want to try and add some regularity to the squad’s pre-match routine.

What attracted you to Al Nasr? I have visited the UAE many times on holiday, and also came to Dubai with England for a training camp before the 2002 World

I STILL SPEAK TO MICHAEL QUITE OFTEN, AND I KNOW HE IS LOOKING FOR ONE LAST CHALLENGE AFTER STOKE. IF HE WANTS TO COME TO AL NASR WE WOULD WELCOME HIM WITH OPEN ARMS. Cup. It is a beautiful place – like a paradise built from scratch. Al Nasr contacted me in early January and asked if I was interested in a permanent role. I flew in for a few meetings and decided, based on the owners’ ambition, to give it a go. I had a similar role, for two months, at Thai team Tero Sasana, but that was never supposed to be a long-term job. Ultimately, I want to win trophies, something I haven’t done since victory with England at the FA Summer Tournament in 2004 and, prior to that, my Serie A, Coppa Italia and Italian Super Cup treble with Lazio in 2000. I genuinely believe I can help Al Nasr achieve Pro League and Asian Champions League success.

How much do you know about the Pro League? I would be lying if I said I was an expert, but I will have plenty of time to find my feet. I know the league is very proud of how it has developed Emirati talent, and the fact the UAE reached the London Olympics, and won the Gulf Cup, proves it does pay dividends forcing teams to field quotas of local players. I just think Pro League clubs need to learn to be patient. Everyone wants immediate success, and if it doesn’t come it leads to knee-jerk sackings. It is important Al Nasr put a long-term plan in place. It might take a couple of seasons to get exactly where we want to be, which is why I am here for 18 months. Hopefully at the end of that period Al Nasr

In June 2008, Eriksson left Manchester City, where he was popular with the fans, but less so with Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra, who didn didn’t last much longer as Sheikh Mansour assumed control that summer 20

SPORTS TALK


Ahmed Hashim Khoory, vice-president of Al Nasr, presents Sven with a shirt after the Swede signed an 18-month contract as technical director at the Al-Maktoum Stadium

SVEN’S JOBS 1977-78: Degerfors 1979-1982: IFK Gothenburg 1982-1984: Benfica 1984-1987: Roma 1987-1989: Fiorentina 1989-1992: Benfica 1992-1997: Sampdoria 1997-2001: Lazio 2001-2006: England 2007-2008: Manchester City 2008-2009: Mexico 2009-2010: Notts County 2010: Ivory Coast 2010-2011: Leicester City 2012: Tero Sasana 2013: Al Nasr

will be a consistent force, like Al Ain appear to have become, spurred on by Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman.

Is it true that you broke a contract with 1860 Munich to join Al Nasr? No, and I am a little disappointed that 1860 claimed otherwise. It is true, before taking the Al Nasr role, I spoke to them, along with Ukraine, but I didn’t sign anything. I was also linked with Blackburn, but never received an offer. I think people just assume I agreed to 1860, then broke my word because Al Nasr offered me more cash. In reality, I am not motivated by money. Of course, all of us work for salaries, but what I really want is to win trophies, and that is the main reason I chose to work with Al Nasr.

Do you still want to be a manager?

Yes – I really miss being in the dugout, but the right opportunity hasn’t come about since I left Leicester in 2011. I could have gone to Ukraine, but I am here now for at least 18 months. After that, who knows what the future will hold. I still feel young, even if I am not, so I can’t rule anything out. For now, I am just delighted to be at Al Nasr. It should prove a very interesting job. I will get to see a lot of matches, plus develop the academy and, on top of all that, live in the sunshine!

Will your presence put Zenga under pressure? Absolutely, but he can handle that. I know Walter very well. He is an intelligent guy. We have had quite a few conversations to clarify exactly what my responsibilities are. I don’t want to step on his toes. I am sure we will develop a

productive working relationship. After all, we are both pulling in the same direction: it is not like I am here to steal his job. Walter will continue to pick the team and take training and I will act behind the scenes to try and strengthen his squad.

Do you still have something to prove in the Premier League? To an extent, but then I didn’t do a whole lot wrong at Manchester City. I just joined the club too early, before Thaksin Shinawatra really knew what (or perhaps more importantly who) he wanted. City were chasing my signature for quite a while and, in hindsight, I should have waited until Sheikh Mansour took over before joining, because I never felt things were stable under Thaksin. Had I done so, things would have been very different – I might even still be there now. You can’t dwell on the past, though. I am over it and glad to see Roberto Mancini doing so well. Perhaps I will get another chance in the Premier League. No one thought Rafa Benitez would return, especially not to Chelsea, which shows you never know where your next job will be in football.

Has football become too cut-throat, as proven by the recent sacking of Nigel Adkins? The sport hasn’t suddenly become cut-throat, it has always been that way. Every sacked manager feels a little bit aggrieved. The problem is that the game has no security, with only a few FEBRUARY 2013

SPORTS TALK

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SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON

Eriksson’s finest hour as England boss was a 5-1 thrashing of arch-rivals Germany in September 2001, a game Owen scored a hat-trick in

rare exceptions, like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Admittedly, the sacking of Adkins was unexpected because he took them from League 1 to the Premier League, but I am never massively surprised by what I see. You just have to take it on the chin if it happens to you and know that, if you did, in reality, do a decent job, other clubs will soon come in for you. In Adkins’ case I am sure Southampton’s loss will prove someone else’s gain.

How do you think Roy Hodgson has started as England manager? Well, he got thrown right in at the deep end, having to play Euro 2012 just weeks into the job. I caught up with him at the FA’s 150th anniversary in January and he seems settled. Although he did a sensational job at Fulham, I think Roy prefers international management. It is tough because I had the golden generation – Owen, Rooney, Beckham, Gerrard et al – who were all at their peak. Hodgson’s task is to nurture a new, less experienced crop of players, and that might take some time. I do think, being English, he will be given a little longer than most if things don’t go according to plan.

TOP ENGLAND MANAGERS 70 WIN PERCENTAGE (%)

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In hindsight, as England’s first foreign manager, was your appointment a mistake and does England need a home-grown boss? When I first joined, the fact I was a foreigner was a big, big issue. A lot of critics felt I didn’t deserve the job, which is nonsense. England should just hire the best available manager they can find, and with my pedigree at Lazio I fell into that bracket at the time. Whether the England boss is Chinese, Polish or Swedish, who cares, as long as he can get victories. Fabio Capello was massively unpopular, but no England manager has a better win percentage than the Italian. Ultimately, all England want to do is succeed at a big tournament, and sooner or later they will – hopefully in Brazil. I still have a soft spot for the English national team, but I feel like the FA’s judgment, whenever they hire someone, is still a bit clouded by popular opinion. The correct appointment for England should simply be the highest quality coach available, but I concede that a home-grown option does pacify the fans. That said, if Jose Mourinho announced he wanted the job, I am sure those who spoke out against a foreign manager when I arrived would suddenly fall silent.



CLIVE AGRAN

SPORTS TALK’S OAP CHAMELEON CLIVE AGRAN TRIES HIS LUCK AT STAND-UP…PADDLEBOARDING

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W

henever ICaption go tostyle myforlocal Indian images on themrestaurant or near them I always peeve off the waiter, who looks eerily like a Bollywood Boy George. For dramatic effect, and in a futile attempt to build suspense, I pause and pretend to meticulously ponder the culinary options. Eventually I pronounce with contrived gusto, “I think I’ll try the… chicken korma.” The Goan garçon grins indulgently, but my fellow diners sigh wearily. They know it’s what I have religiously ordered for the past 50 years! What I enjoy most about chicken korma is that it’s mild. Admittedly, I do have a grudging admiration for those who can negotiate a mouth-scorching vindaloo or phall, but when dining I would rather not have sweat dribbling (slower than Emile Heskey) down my forehead, or feel the need to douse the flames flickering around my tongue with copious quantities of chilled lager (even if it is the perfect excuse to binge drink). I know it sounds oxymoronic, but I am a passionate moderate. Take politics, for example: enormously suspicious of radicals, I plump myself slap bang in the middle of the spectrum. Even as a free-thinking student in the psychedelic sixties, I still thought Karl Marx was a wally, Chairman Mao too overweight to be taken seriously and the imminent collapse of capitalism less likely than Arthur Scargill being knighted in the New Year Honours list. Instead of the almost mandatory poster of Che Guevara, I had gruff Tottenham striker Jimmy Greaves on my wall. Incidentally, it wasn’t just the left I mistrusted. I was an outspoken critic of General Franco, apartheid and, a few decades later, George Graham’s appointment as Spurs boss!

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CLIVE AGRAN Given this intriguing (if farcically longwinded) insight into the way my brain ticks, why on earth did I get up at the crack of dawn to try the extreme sport of kitesurfing? It was a crazy idea, so I was pretty darn relieved when Frazer Stewart, who runs the Brighton Kitesurfing Academy, greeted me with the news that the wind was offshore – meaning it would blow me out to sea, probably all the way to France. Thus, for safety reasons, kitesurfing was hastily taken off the menu. Of course, I produced an Oscar-winning performance of feigned disenchantment, then began nonchalantly bronzing on the beach, wondering how the desire to dabble in such a dangerous sport came over me in the first place. I put it down to a mini mid-life crisis. Annoyingly, Frazer totally bought my flawless act and hence assumed I was genuinely psyched up for some kind of marine thrill. Consequently, he proposed stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which (thankfully) is the chicken korma to kitesurfing’s vindaloo. So before you can say, “That’s an altogether more appropriate activity for a man your age,” we had whipped on wetsuits in nearby Shoreham, which really don’t leave much to the imagination (especially not at my age!). We strolled to an idyllic haunt where the mighty River Adur meets the English Channel. The tide was still out, so I could see a narrow stretch of sand exposed on the southern bank which, were it 20 degrees warmer and not drizzling, could almost pass for Jumeirah Beach. We lugged our boards – which were blissfully free of ropes, wires or anything more complicated than a handle – to the water’s edge and then Frazer commenced my ‘Introduction to Stand-up Paddleboarding’ course. Having already completed a ‘Stand-up Comedy for Dummies’ class in 2010, I was not the complete novice you might have suspected and, although slapstick isn’t usually my preferred style, I fully expected my SUP antics to provoke more laughter than my gags did a few years back. Believe it or not, paddleboarding is the world’s fastest growing water sport. It has its origins in Hawaii – hence its original name, ‘hoe he’e nalu’. In the early sixties, members of the Beach Boys of Waikiki, a famous surfing club, would stand on their long boards, with an outrigger paddle in hand, and take pictures of the tourists. Thus, for years SUP was known as ‘Beach Boy Surfing’. It gained further global kudos in the noughties when legendary surfer Laird Hamilton took it up as an alternative means of training when the waves were down. The beauty of SUP is that it is simple, relaxing and easy, so you can get involved without having to psyche yourself up for a near-death experience. In other words, even old fogies can have a go! 26

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Clive could cope with falling in since, as a lifelong Spurs fan, he is totally used to that sinking feeling

THE BEAUTY OF SUP IS THAT IT IS SIMPLE, RELAXING AND EASY, SO YOU CAN GET INVOLVED WITHOUT HAVING TO PSYCHE YOURSELF UP FOR A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. IN OTHER WORDS, EVEN OLD FOGIES CAN HAVE A GO.

The paddleboard, which is either inflatable or made of epoxy resin, is between 2.7 and 4.2 metres long, and looks like a super-sized surfboard. The aim is to stand (or if you’re really useless, kneel) on the board while pushing yourself across the water with a paddle. SUP’s development has basically mirrored mankind in the sense that it started in the prone position, rose onto its knees and then, just like Homo sapiens, made it all the way up to the erect stance. What took mankind several hundred thousand years to achieve, I majestically recreated in a matter of seconds. Lying face-down on the board, my first excursion saw me amble about 20 yards out and back. I accomplished this without serious incident or mishap. Next, however, came the fiddly bit – having to stand up on what is a decidedly wobbly board. Although the water might be warmer in Hawaii, at least in Shoreham Harbour at low tide there’s nothing remotely resembling a 30-foot Pacific roller thundering in. Nevertheless, even the most modest of ripples can unsettle a geriatric rookie hesitantly rising to his feet and hoping to avoid a mouthful of saltwater.


Along with offering over-zealous encouragement, Frazer reminded me to keep my feet well apart, knees slightly bent, eyes looking SURF DUBAI forward, paddle the right : +971 5 0504 3020 way round and several other *: info@surfingdubai.com (no doubt important) things : surfingdubai.com that I couldn’t remember, ABU DHABI SUP CLUB partly due to old age, but : +971 5 0905 9743 also because I was focusing *: abudhabisup@gmail.com all my efforts on trying to : abudhabisup.com stay upright. The hardest part is DUCO MARITIME actually mastering the : +971 5 0870 3427 paddling technique itself, *: duco@ducomartime.com which is more complicated : ducomartime.com than you might suspect. It feels odd at first to push with the upper hand rather than pull with the lower one. When executed correctly, you use your whole upper body as you twist to bring the paddle through the water. Your legs and core muscles also get a workout as you use them to keep your balance. After a brief SUP session, you feel as though your entire body has had a light sparring session with Mike Tyson (albeit with your ear still intact!). I had now been on my feet for almost 30 minutes without once tumbling into the river. Yet, just when I naively thought I had got the hang of it, Frazer upped the ante and introduced backpaddling (where you throw one side of the board into reverse to effect a turn) into the equation. He also had me execute a slow pirouette on the board while manically slapping my paddle on the water. This was intended to build my confidence and encourage manoeuvrability. Evidently unsettled by my resolute refusal to fall in, Frazer even asked me to shift to the back of the board in order to attempt a challenging pivot turn. Theoretically, at least, it makes sense that the more weight there is on the rear, the easier it is to swing the nose round, but in practice it was a move that was always going to end badly. Eventually I plunged in, mostly just to satisfy Frazer. He took an inordinate amount of glee at this, but not purely out of malice – he just wanted to make sure I could get safely back on the board. Having done so, we then enjoyed a delightful excursion around a moored catamaran, although I bet it was nothing compared to a trip around the seven-star Burj Al Arab. I would probably have to get off the board, though, and swing (or should I say swim?) by for high tea – but I bet they wouldn’t serve me in a wetsuit, which is a shame because after an hour out on the water I was parched and in desperate need of a cuppa!

PADDLEBOARDING IN THE UAE

Group SUP lessons around the Burj Al Arab start from just AED 50

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FIRST HALF

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM » INTERVIEWS » PREVIEWS

THIS MONTH…

30 NOVAK DJOKOVIC

The world No.1 tells Joe Harris how growing up in war-torn Serbia has helped him win six Grand Slams

36 ANNABEL CROFT

The former British No.1 looks ahead to the Dubai Tennis Championships at the Aviation Club

38 PHIL TAYLOR

Ben Jacobs argues ‘The Power’ has done as much for sport as Tiger Woods and Roger Federer


NOVAK DJOKOVIC

WORLD NO.1 NOVAK DJOKOVIC TELLS JOE HARRIS HIS YOUTH IN WAR-TORN SERBIA IS THE KEY TO HIS SIX GRAND SLAM TITLES AND NEVER-SAY-DIE ATTITUDE 30

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC

O

ff the court Novak Djokovic is a jester, but on it he is a gladiator – a smiling assassin intent on killing his ATP chums. The genial world No.1 may not posses the grace of Roger Federer, the raw power of Rafael Nadal or the energy of Andy Murray, but his childhood gave him one critical attribute that trio can’t buy – mental resolve. The 25-year-old might assume the moniker ‘Djoker’, but his youth, blighted by bombings in Belgrade, was certainly no laughing matter, making his rise to the peak of tennis even more astonishing. It all began on a snowy mountain in the middle of nowhere. Born into a ski-mad family in the Dinaric Alps, Djokovic basically got lucky. When he was four, the state-owned company that ran the Kopaonik resort decided, on a whim, to build three clay tennis courts on the other side of the car park from where his parents, Dijana and Srdjan (an ex-FC Trepka footballer and Yugoslav skier), ran a modest pizzeria and creperie. “I would definitely have never got into tennis if those courts didn’t appear,” admitted Djokovic, who clawed past Andy Murray (6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2) to claim his fourth Australian Open in January. “No one in my family had ever touched a tennis racket before me. I always wanted to become a footballer and, even after I took up tennis, was a bit annoyed I didn’t give that sport a go. I was into skiing too, but my fate was just to do what I do – there is no other explanation for it.” At that point tennis wasn’t remotely popular in Serbia, yet two decades on and the courts are overflowing. In poorer areas lacking facilities, some kids even hit balls on basketball courts, improvising without a net just to try and emulate their hero. This new Serbian craze for tennis, catalysed by Djokovic (along with former world No.1s Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic) borders on farce, especially when you consider Novak didn’t just fortuitously stumble across a sludge-strewn court, but a coach too. By pure chance, Jelena Gencic, the former mentor to 10-time Grand Slam winner Monica Seles, ran summer lessons there, and is cited by Djokovic as his most pivotal sporting influence. “I knew he was a star from day one,” Gencic told Sports Talk.. “He arrived half an hour early for his first lesson with this huge bag. Inside, there was his racket and a bottle of water, but also a banana, towel and wristband – everything you could possibly need for a game. I assumed his mother, Dijana, had packed it, but Novak swore he did. He was only just five, but had seen enough tennis on television to know precisely what to include. Then, when I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, without hesitation he gave me the same answer as Monica Seles – ‘the No.1 tennis player in the world!’” In his formative years, Djokovic’s idol was Pete Sampras. The American didn’t exactly ooze charisma, but Novak loved the way he dealt with pressure, serving aces at the most crucial of moments, including 33 against fierce foe Andre Agassi in his 2002 US Open triumph. “I would have loved to return Pete’s serve,” revealed Djokovic, who will team up with the 14-time Grand Slam

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I WOULD DEFINITELY HAVE NEVER GOT INTO TENNIS IF THOSE COURTS DIDN’T APPEAR. NO ONE IN MY FAMILY HAD EVER TOUCHED A TENNIS RACKET BEFORE ME. I ALWAYS WANTED TO BECOME A FOOTBALLER AND, EVEN AFTER I TOOK UP TENNIS, WAS A BIT ANNOYED I DIDN’T GIVE THAT SPORT A GO.

The Kopaonik courts where Djokovic learnt his trade (and played football) are now just a weedy wasteland, but the world No.1 has since founded a tennis academy in Belgrade

ALL-TIME GRAND SLAM WINNERS Australian Open

French Open

Wimbledon

US Open

Total

1. Roger Federer

4

1

7

5

17

2. Pete Sampras

2

0

7

5

14

3. Roy Emerson

6

2

2

2

12

T4. Rafael Nadal

1

7

2

1

11

T4.Bjorn Borg

0

6

5

0

11

T5. Rod Laver

3

2

4

2

11

T21. Novak Djokovic

4

0

1

1

6

winner in March for a charity doubles match against Bob and Mike Bryan in Los Angeles. “I will get the chance to hit with him in March, but I am a little disappointed we are on the same team! I might ask Bob or Mike if I can return on their behalf.” It was quasi-stalking Sampras which first got Djokovic into impersonating, although ‘Pistol Pete’ wasn’t the only American he paid homage to. Novak would also stand on the tattered family sofa mimicking John McEnroe’s famous left-hand serve (which critic Clive James aptly compared to someone hitting a ball around the corner of an imaginary building). Along with Nadal’s signature move of fiddling with the seat of his pants before serving, this is still his favourite party trick. “I used to impersonate to try and improve, but now I do it to entertain the crowds,” said Djokovic, who also does a mean impression of Maria Sharapova. “It was different when I was young. I wasn’t looking for laughs. I genuinely wanted to be Sampras and McEnroe and, these days, I like to think there’s one or two kids in Serbia imitating me for the same reason.” It appears almost implausible that Djokovic, by simply watching others and practising on a cracked (and frequently frozen) court, could have got so proficient at tennis. It is here that his compelling rags-to-riches story breaks down a touch, since the Kopaonik ski resort did also house the five-star Grand Hotel, which boasted a lavish sports hall. With the aid of a green carpet, the wooden floor could be used for tennis. It was here Novak honed his game, practising for at least two hours a day during the winter. Sadly for his family, this came at a hefty price, especially once the civil war started in 1991 and inflation reared its ugly head. “I think it was about 25 Deutschmarks [AED 60] per hour, which was a lot of money in those days,” said Djokovic. “My father used to pay for it by giving ski lessons. He put every penny into my tennis career and for that I will be eternally grateful. My uncle Goran helped too. “We also sub-let the three outdoor courts from the hotel, which brought in some cash. This also meant we had control over the surface, which we soon got looking like Roland Garros!” Tragically, in 1999 the courts were near-obliterated when NATO bombers inadvertently flattened them while trying to wipe out a radar station on top of the mountain. Novak (and FEBRUARY 2013

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC

5 DJOKES

Novak isn’t tennis’ only comedian: Andrea Petkovic marks victory with the ‘Petko dance’, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands dresses like Lady Gaga his brothers Marko and Djordje) had already left Kopaonik two years earlier, though, and moved to a small apartment in Belgrade, but this switch to promote his tennis initially backfired as the Serbian capital came under its own three-month blitz. The violence got so nasty that Djokovic, along with Jankovic and Ivanovic, would often be forced to take refuge in a bomb shelter when their practice in an empty swimming pool, which had been turned into a makeshift court, was spontaneously interrupted. On his 12th birthday, Novak can also vividly recall the menacing drone of lowflying fighter jets drowning out the renditions of ‘Happy Birthday to You’. He attributes the success he has since enjoyed to such harrowing memories. “All of us who went through that came out mentally stronger,” reasoned Djokovic, who clocked an astonishing 43-game unbeaten streak in late 2010 and 2011. “If you can pull through that, you can get through a five-set match, which doesn’t even compare. Those experiences made me appreciate the value of life. I know how it feels to live in a battle zone, and I try to take that war-like mentality onto the court – I fight, scrap and never say die, which I am sure has helped me win Grand Slams. “A lot of people ask me how I kept going, but it would have been more foolish to stop. Tennis was my form of escapism, so if anything the war made me more, not less focused on my game. Practice kept me sane. After all, the courts weren’t any less safe than the rest of 34

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Filmed a mock advert pretending to be Maria Sharapova -------------Gatecrashed a legends doubles match at the Australian Open dressed as a doctor and mock-revived Henri Leconte -------------Pulled out a golf club instead of a tennis racket before his 2011 first-round Wimbledon tie with Juan Carlos Ferrero -------------Posted a Facebook photo of Janko Tipsarevic pointing a gun at his head with the caption, “How much would Rafa pay for Janko to pull the trigger?!” -------------Came on court in a Darth Vader mask before his Halloween match with Sam Querrey at the 2012 Paris Masters

Belgrade. I preferred to be out there than to sit in my basement and wonder whether I was going to get bombed – that would have driven me crazy, so I would stay out all day, until dinner, then come home, close the curtains and sit silently in the dark until bed. That was just how life was back then.” If anything, the bloodshed made Djokovic more patriotic. When he was 19, and already in the world’s top 40, there was a spurious suggestion he might defect to Britain after the Lawn Tennis Association tabled a lucrative offer to poach him, but Novak was having none of it. “I said to myself, ‘I am Serbian, and proud of that fact,’” he explained. “If I had played for Great Britain, deep down, I would never have felt I belonged.” By remaining loyal to his country, Djokovic has become the face of Serbia – to the extent that Vecernje Novosti, a newspaper in Belgrade, hailed him as “a balm for all our wounds”. In 2011, the then Serbian president Boris Tadic even revealed that he almost died from nerves after watching Djokovic’s four-set win (6–4, 6–1, 1–6, 6–3) over defending champion Nadal at Wimbledon, before adding, “But that would be OK because Novak could easily take over my duties!” Tadic was clearly joking, but the truth is if Djokovic stood for Serbian president he would probably win! Don’t be fooled by his clown-like veneer, he is a raging warrior capable of digging deep to achieve any goal, on or off the tennis court. Following his gutsy Australian Open victory over Murray in January, novel Novak handed out chocolate to the media, informing them the quirky gesture was to “keep things sweet”. This was widely construed as a characteristic move, but the irony is Djokovic is the antithesis of most chocolate: he is soft on the outside, hard on the inside, and that’s why he may well one day surpass Federer’s current Grand Slam record of 17.



ANNABEL CROFT

SERENA T &NOVAK WILL RULE IN DUBAI

On a fast and furious Dubai court, it is hard to look past Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic at this year’s Dubai Tennis Duty Free Championships, writes former British No.1 Annabel Croft 36

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he Dubai Tennis Championships (February 18-March 2) is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. This will be my 13th visit, since the inaugural women’s event in 2001, which Martina Hingis won. It is a really unique few weeks, with the men and women following each other in close succession. The centre court at the Aviation Club is incredible too. A few years back, I remember watching Dubai resident Sania Mirza almost upset Justin Henin, and I have never seen an atmosphere like it. The partisan Indian crowd was going crazy. It was just brilliant! Dubai usually throws up a predictable winner, which is to be expected when you attract most of the top players. Even though it is not a Grand Slam, ego is still at stake when all the big guns are in one place. The only caveat to that is, due to the fast hard court, we often see a bunch of errors in the early rounds, which can create the occasional upset. It kind of feels like you are playing at high altitude because the ball really flies, and it takes the players a little bit longer to acclimatise. Since the conditions suit short points, and those who can rattle off a ton of winners, I am predicting victories for Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic. World No.2 Serena turned her ankle in Melbourne, and is battling back problems as well, but when on song she is still the one to beat, whatever the rankings say. Had Li Na beaten Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open final, Serena would have gone back to world No.1, which is where the majority of her peers believe she belongs. The question in Dubai is whether anyone can match her from the back of the court. The likes of current world No.1 Azarenka, in-form Na and the defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska must try to unsettle her rhythm, because if Serena gets her potent first serve going the rest of the field are in big trouble. Following a shock (albeit injury-blighted) quarter-final loss to 19-year-old prodigy Sloane Stephens in Melbourne, Serena will be hungry to bounce back. At the Australian Open, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou told me she is incredibly motivated to get back to winning ways, so should arrive in the Dubai (where she has never won) pretty fired up. Azarenka will be desperate to keep her at bay. She has started the year in perfect fashion by defending her Australian Open title, but she is still viewed as a kind of pantomime villain – an image she is not happy about. Victoria was roundly booed Name Ranking and made all the back pages in Melbourne Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 1 for taking a dubious medical time-out in her Serena Williams (USA) 2 semi-final win over Stephens. The Belarusian Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 4 thus had to call an emergency press Li Na (CHI) 5 conference to answer allegations of Angelique Kerber (GER) 6 unsporting behaviour. Sara Errani (ITA) 7 It sounds harsh, but Victoria is a very Petra Kvitova (CZE) 8 manufactured tennis player. She has great Sam Stosur (AUS) 9 groundstrokes, moves well and takes the ball Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 11 early, but just lacks a bit of flair, which is Nadia Petrova (RUS) 12 perhaps why she wasn’t the the most popular Marian Kirilenko (RUS) 13 champion in Melbourne. Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 14 In the men’s event, I fully expect a final Dominika Cibulkova (SLO) 15 between Djokovic and Roger Federer, Roberta Vinci (ITA) 16 especially with both Andy Murray and Lucie Safarova (CZE) 18 Rafael Nadal absent. Both have won in Julia Goerges (GER) 19 Dubai before, with Federer the defending Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 20 champion and a five-time winner. Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 21 Last year, Novak – himself a three-time Klara Zakopalova (CZE) 24 champion (2009-2012) – could only reach Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 31 the semis, but that was because an inspired

WOMEN’S LINE-UP


MEN’S LINE-UP

Murray produced one of the best performance I have ever seen to defeat him. Federer then played a blinder to see off the Scot in the final. The level of tennis on show was truly exceptional. Roger will be itching to win his sixth title in Dubai. For him, it is not just about the Grand Slams anymore. He is just one short of John McEnroe’s 77 ATP titles, which he will try to equal in the UAE. Jimmy Connors (109) and Ivan Lendl (94) are unlikely to be caught, but Roger will want to surpass John’s tally, and you would fully expect him to do so pretty soon. I don’t think it will happen in Dubai, though, where my tip is Djokovic. He is just an extraordinary human being. There are so many depths to his character. Partly due to the war-torn Serbia in which he grew up, he has this staggering mental resolve. As a result, he seems to come out of virtually every marathon encounter on the winning side. Along with battling past Andy in Melbourne, over the past two years Novak has survived two match points against Federer in the 2011 US Open semi-final, then gone on to beat Nadal for the trophy, and defeated Murray in a five-set epic at the 2012 Australian Open, before seeing off Rafa in a draining six-hour final. For me, these wins sum him up – he just has this amazing ability to dig really deep when it matters. Consequently, Novak has built an almost invincible reputation, enhanced by the fact he is also extremely difficult to read. You can never write him off, and that gets into opponents’ heads. Martina Navratilova used to do the same during my day – to the point where keeping her on court for more than 40 minutes was part of the trick to beating her. Murray, for example, won the first set in Melbourne, and crafted three break points in the second, yet Novak held serve from 0-40 down and eventually levelled the match in a tiebreak. From there, he never looked back. That is the big difference between the two: steely Djokovic seems almost impervious to a mental breakdown on court.

Name

Ranking

Novak Djokovic (SRB)

1

Roger Federer (SWI)

2

Thomas Berdych (CZE)

6

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

7

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRE)

8

Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)

9

Andreas Seppi (ITA)

18

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)

19

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)

32

Marcel Granollers (ESP)

34

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP)

36

Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)

37

Viktor Troicki (SRB)

39

Bernard Tomic (AUS)

44

David Goffin (BLR)

48

Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)

53

Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)

54

Victor Hanescu (ROM)

59

Michael Llodra (FRA)

62

Lukas Rosol (CZE)

70

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)

85

Somdev Devvarman (IND)

395

Whereas Serena has never won in Dubai, Novak is looking to get his claws on a fourth title I know it sounds bizarre to say, but it was 2-2 in that tiebreak and a white bird feather floated down onto the court. Murray stepped forward to brush it away, and then immediately double-faulted. That mini-break was all Djokovic needed and from there Andy looked like a beaten man. Believe it or not, an innocuous thing like that can be so defining because tennis matches are all about momentum, and at that point it emphatically swung in Novak’s favour. With one Grand Slam already under his belt, and the other three this year a very real possibility, Novak will hope to put together a winning streak akin to his 43game one in 2010 and 2011, and even with a strong men’s field, I can’t see him being halted in Dubai, not even by the Fed Express! FEBRUARY 2013

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PHIL TAYLOR

38

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V

ictory in January’s PDC World Championship final gave Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor his 16th title, thus consolidating his place as history’s greatest ever darts player. The affable 52-year-old dug deep to see off Holland’s Michael van Gerwen 7-4 at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day. Taylor’s multiple triumphs mean he compares extremely favourably to the likes of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Woods boasts 14 Majors and 102 professional victories, while Federer has claimed an exceptional 17 Grand Slams, yet The Power’s 193 career titles still dwarf the Swiss star’s tally of 76. Taylor’s numbers also eclipse those of Formula One driver Michael Schumacher (seven drivers’ championships), MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi (nine world championships), footballer Ryan Giggs (12 Premier League titles) and sublime surfer Kelly Slater (11 world championships). Admittedly, darts’ world No.1 is a touch older than these names, but he has won over twice as many times as all, bar Tiger, during a truly imperious two-decade reign. “You can only judge a sportsman by what he has won, and that is why I sometimes get compared to Tiger and Roger,” said Taylor, whose own sporting idols are multiple Olympic champions Sir Steve Redgrave and Daley Thompson. “The analogies with various sporting greats is a humbling experience, and it is quite funny to think I have 10 times more titles than a lot of them! I really don’t say that out of arrogance, more surprise! My success has never really sunk in!”

HE MIGHT NOT HAVE THE TONED PHYSIQUE OR FANATICAL MINIONS OF TIGER WOODS OR ROGER FEDERER, BUT BEN JACOBS BELIEVES TAYLOR DESERVES TO BE MENTIONED IN THE SAME BREATH AS BOTH FEBRUARY 2013

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PHIL TAYLOR Stoke-born Taylor hasn’t just dominated at the okey, he has transformed darts from a pub game, predominantly for obese boozers, into a credible sport. He was the ringleader behind a breakaway movement from the British Darts Organisation (BDO) in 1992, having persuaded his peers that the amateur body wasn’t doing enough to promote his beloved game. Thus the World Darts Council (WDC) – now known as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) – was born. Taylor has also significantly elevated the standard of darts, starting a culture that forced others to practise for hours a day just to keep pace with him, as well as encouraging his chunkier colleagues, like the once 31-stone Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham, to shed a few pounds. “I certainly don’t view myself as a finely-tuned athlete,” chuckled Taylor, who has gone from 19 to 14 stone. “However, if you want the world at your feet you do need to be able to see them! “I didn’t just lose weight to improve at darts. I was worried about dropping dead of a heart attack aged 50. As a result, I built a gym in my house, took up swimming, stopped drinking too much and started tucking myself in bed by ten. These days, I am basically a sad, middle-aged man without a life!” Modest Taylor does himself a disservice. Perhaps he doesn’t quite transcend darts in the same way Tiger does golf or Federer tennis, but he has done as much (if not more) for his sport as either. His achievements just aren’t lauded as much because darts is still pretty niche. Golf and tennis, on the other hand, are global games, hell-bent on reaching new markets; and for Taylor to glean the recognition he deserves, darts must expand too. The PDC have shrewdly realised this, hence the addition to their calendar of a debut event in Dubai this May (23-24). The Dubai Masters will be staged at the Irish Village and see the world’s top eight players going head to head for a prize pool of £160k (AED 960k), with the champion pocketing £30k (AED 180k). Along with Taylor, world No.2 Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis, five-time world champion Raymond ‘Barney’ van Barneveld, 15-time PDC winner James ‘The Machine’ Wade, defending World Grand Prix champion Michael ‘Mighty Mike’ van Gerwen, 2012 European champion Simon ‘The Wizard’ Whitlock and two-time major finalists Andy ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton and Wes ‘The

Warrior’ Newton are also likely to be present. A season ticket for both days starts from AED 299. “It will be the greatest show on Earth,” promised eloquent promoter Barry Hearn, who told Sports Talk he has signed a four-year contract with lead sponsor Dubai Duty Free. “Darts fans in Dubai will now get to see the world’s top players in the flesh. You will be treated to a level of accuracy never seen before on this planet. A bit like when the Race to Dubai first started in golf, the Dubai Masters will prove groundbreaking and make our sport truly global.” “It is not often that I am excited these days, but I simply can’t wait to play in Dubai,” added Taylor. “I am just blown away by the place. I have been to Las Vegas about 30 times, and it doesn’t even compete. The other night, I ate by the Burj Khalifa and was gobsmacked by the dancing fountains. I thought I was in outer space! I have been to Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio and Mauritius and I promise you Dubai beats them all hands down. For the first time in my career, my family are hounding me to come with me in May, so I am going to have to win in Dubai just to get my money back!” Taylor will inevitably attract a colossal crowd. After all, he is an everyman – the face of a game often billed as ‘golf for the lower class’. In an age where sports icons sometimes disappoint, he has grown into the ideal role model, despite a few wobbles (including a 2001 indecent assault charge) along the way. In fairness to Federer, he too is the perfect gentleman, but Woods’ infamous addiction to sexual vices, Schumacher’s chronic cheating (and ice-cold demeanour) and, most recently, Lance Armstrong’s serial doping, have severely called into question the reputations of some of sport’s biggest luminaries. Armstrong’s unceremonious fall from grace, resulting in the American being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, was something that particularly shocked Taylor. “Throughout the years, I have often been compared to Lance, and I always took that as a massive compliment,” he said. “Up until a few months ago, I really respected him. I enjoyed reading his autobiography, which I keep by my toilet, because I just love winners. Now, I might have to flush it! I am afraid to say he is a disgrace, who has let a lot of people down. “When Lance was at his peak, and people thought he

YOU CAN ONLY JUDGE A SPORTSMAN BY WHAT HE HAS WON, AND THAT IS WHY I SOMETIMES GET COMPARED TO TIGER AND ROGER. THE ANALOGIES WITH VARIOUS SPORTING GREATS IS A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE, AND IT IS QUITE FUNNY TO THINK I HAVE 10 TIMES MORE TITLES THAN A LOT OF THEM!

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DUBAI MASTERS When: 23-24 May Where: Irish Village Website: pdc.tv Tickets: from AED 199 (itp.net/tickets)

Taylor dropped just nine legs en route to his heated 6-4 semi-final victory over Raymond van Barneveld, before battling the sniffles to see off Barney’s compatriot van Gerwen was clean, it was a touch farcical to compare me with him. Now, I just don’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as him. “I have always been obsessed with not disappointing my sponsors, because they support me so well, which is why I have stopped living too frivolously. Lance has let his down and it is going to be extremely tough for him to get any future backing now, even for the number of excellent charities he supports. “I just feel sorry for the honest cyclists. They are going to get branded druggies and it will drive them crackers. I can empathise with them, since most darts players get stick for being overweight boozers, which is not at all accurate in the modern game. I can live with that, though – it is just banter and I begrudgingly accept I am more known for my man breasts than pecs!” Unassuming Taylor refuses to accept he is anything special – it is part of what makes him so genial – but his fervent professionalism, and consistency of performance, is truly astonishing. His latest triumph over the prodigious van Gerwen was particularly impressive because his powers seemed to be waning with age, having not won a world title since 2010. Gritty Taylor, however, wasn’t about to fade quietly into the sunset. Instead, he experimented with glasses as his sight deteriorated and ditched his trusty darts for a new weightier set in a bid to reclaim his grip on the sport. In January’s final, he just refused to entertain the prospect of defeat, despite being riddled with flu,

HOW TAYLOR COMPARES Michael Phelps – 18 gold medals Roger Federer – 17 Grand Slams Phil Taylor – 16 world titles Tiger Woods – 14 Majors Ryan Giggs – 12 Premier League titles Kelly Slater – 11 world titles Valentino Rossi – 9 world titles Michael Schumacher – 7 drivers’ titles

FEBRUARY 2013

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PHIL TAYLOR

Gym freak Taylor might be shedding the pounds, but PDC chairman Hearn is shrewdly using his appeal to gain them!

DID YOU KNOW?

Sky Sports production manager Peter Judge told Taylor he needed a nickname and decided on The Power after accidentally stepping on an empty CD case of German band Snap!’s debut hit ‘The Power’

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coming from 2-0 and 4-2 down to become the oldest winner of the tournament. So what is Phil’s secret to success? “Get four kids, it focuses your mind,” (half) joked Taylor, who concedes he has, on occasion, sleep-thrown darts (thankfully without injury!). “You have got to provide for them and that, in my case, fuels my winning mentality. “My parents have also made me who I am today. I am probably the last generation raised to work 24-7, even if there is ten million quid in my bank account. That was just how my mum, Liz, brought me up. “When I was a kid, if I overslept, or fancied a day off, she would run upstairs and chuck a bucket of water over my head! As a result, I used to bolt up as soon as I heard my alarm beep, and bang my foot on the floor to make sure she knew I wasn’t being lazy. Sometimes she would still barge in, just to doublecheck, which used to terrify me! “My dad, Doug, meanwhile, would constantly bug me to practise. ‘Later, later,’ I would yell, and he’d grab me by the scruff of the neck, look me in the eye and say, ‘If you’re not throwing darts, your rivals are.’ If my parents weren’t there egging me on I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today.” Born in the sleepy Staffordshire town of Burslem, Taylor’s supreme work ethic was evident from the very beginning. In his youth, he would balance a mouldy brush against his garden wall and bowl a golf ball at it for hours to improve his hand-eye coordination. When he was old enough to get a job, The Power worked in a (crappy) factory crafting ceramic toilet holders, as well as pulling pints in the evening (for just £5 per hour). In his spare time, he would also turn his hand to repairing cars just to earn a few extra bob. Unsurprisingly, he was thus too busy to even throw his first dart until the age of 26. On a night out with his (now estranged) wife Yvonne, he spontaneously challenged a friend, who had recently qualified for a televised darts event, to a game in the Crafty Cockney – the local pub owned by five-time world champion Eric Bristow. Taylor comprehensively won, and from there started to play more regularly. Benevolent Bristow soon convinced him to take up the game full-time, sponsoring him £10k so that he could quit his other jobs and dedicate his life to darts. “The money was on the condition that he dropped everything else,” said Bristow, who beat Bobby George (and all his bling) 5-3 in 1980 to win one of darts’ most famous World Championship finals. “It was a loan, to be repaid when Phil had enough prize money to return it. He was such a talent, I basically expected it back within a year!” “In a funny way, I quite relished owing Eric money,” added Taylor. “That drove me on to practise more. I would see him in the Crafty Cockney and he would mock-storm over and say, ‘What the hell are you doing sitting down? You owe me ten grand!’ I would laugh, but deep down that forced me to train harder. I hated being in debt.” It didn’t take The Power long to reimburse Bristow. In 1988, in his debut season, he won his first title at the Canadian Open – pocketing £250, which to him “felt like winning the lottery” – and, two years later, he secured the first of his 16 world championships. In 1992, he moved to the PDC and powered to 14 of the next 20, including an unbeaten run between 1995 and 2002. However, despite his seemingly never-ending list of accolades, grounded Taylor remains a realist, and knows he can’t carry on forever. Thus, despite still being the man to beat in darts, he has ruled out retiring with 20 world titles. “No, I can’t get to 20,” he revealed. “That said, if I reach 19 I will definitely go for 20, but I am getting on a bit now, and things are starting to drop off! Once you turn 50, you get tired a lot quicker, and don’t recuperate as fast between matches.

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I HAVE OFTEN BEEN COMPARED TO LANCE, AND I ALWAYS TOOK THAT AS A MASSIVE COMPLIMENT. UP Caption style for images on them or near them Pore etur? Apis re nos mo volupitiunt officat am, nation esEY UNTIL A FEW MONTHS AGO, I REALLY RESPECTED HIM. I AM AFRAID TO SAY HE IS A DISGRACE, WHO HAS LET A LOT OF PEOPLE DOWN.

FEBRUARY 2013

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PHIL TAYLOR Taylor is still hopeful his 29-year-old son Christopher can continue his darts legacy

TAYLOR IN NUMBERS

9 16 74 100 118.66 119 televised nine-dart finishes

world titles

BDO and PDC wins

World Championship matches played

average score v Kevin Painter in 2010, a new record

IF I REACH 19 I WILL DEFINITELY GO FOR 20, BUT I AM GETTING ON A BIT NOW, AND THINGS ARE STARTING TO DROP OFF! You also get up in the middle of the night for a wee instead of sleeping like a baby. That takes its toll too. “I think I would have to win four straight world championships now to stand any chance of getting to 20, otherwise I will be striving after that goal and pretty much pushing 60. I like to think I will have retired by then because I want to spend more time with my wonderful children and grandkids.” Even when he quits throwing arrows for a living, Taylor plans to stay involved in sport, and not necessarily just darts. His astonishing mental focus was why ex-England manager Fabio Capello recruited his services to help England prepare ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Unfortunately, The Power was on his travels, but the avid Port Vale fan is keen to help Roy Hodgson as England prepare for Brazil 2014. “I would love to play darts with the England lads,” said Taylor, who has adopted Newcastle as his Premier League team. “A light-hearted game, with plenty of banter, can help build camaraderie, and that can make all the difference at major tournaments. I definitely think I could help out, but that is for Roy to decide. I have worked with a few football clubs in the past, including Newcastle, whose spirit has always impressed me, so perhaps England will come calling. 44

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non-BDO or PDC wins

£5,250,006 in career earnings

Matt Lucas lookalike van Gerwen is viewed by many as a future world No.1

“Obviously, I know I will never have the kind of impact on sport as someone like David Beckham, but I would love to leave a legacy both in and outside of darts. I do want to put my motivational skills to good use when I finally call it quits.” Taylor is right, he won’t ever quite be viewed as on a par with Becks, but he will at least ensure the Dubai Masters (and every other event he graces) is a sell-out. The Power thus fully deserves to be talked about as one of the world’s greatest ever sportsmen.


PHIL TAYLOR

Sweet 16 Taylor first became world champion in 1990 and has been almost untouchable ever since

1990

2nd January

1995

13th January

6-1 v Eric Bristow The unseeded 125-1 shot claimed his maiden world title with a 6-1 rout of his mentor Bristow at Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green.

1992

6-2 v Rod Harrington

The Power was thrashed 6-1 by Dennis Priestley in the inaugural PDC final the previous year, but secured a third world crown after breezing past Harrington.

1996 2nd January

6-4 v Dennis Priestley

The Power gained revenge over Priestley for his 1994 loss by seeing off ‘The Menace’ at the Circus Tavern. Amazingly, in their path to the final, the pair dropped just three sets between them.

1997 5th January

6-3 v Dennis Priestley Taylor again got the better of Priestley at the Circus Tavern. However, the most memorable match of the competition was his nervy 5-4 semi-final victory over Eric Bristow.

11th January

6-5 v Mike Gregory

Taylor won his second world darts title at Lakeside Country Club, narrowly defeating Gregory. It was his last World Championship victory before a dispute in 1994 which led to the formation of the WDC (later the PDC) – a rival to the BDO.

4th January

6-0 v Dennis Priestley

The Power became the most successful player in World Championship history after defeating Priestley for the third straight year to record his fourth consecutive title.

1998


1999

2000

8th January

7-3 v Dennis Priestley

Taylor became the first world champion of the millennium, in any sport, after recording his eighth world title. In truth, gutsy Priestley was a touch unlucky to lose despite the 7-3 scoreline.

3rd January

6-2 v Peter Manley

Taylor’s seventh world crown marked the beginning of a rivalry with Manley. His triumph over ‘One Dart’ made it five titles in a row.

2001 2002

3rd January

5th January

7-0 v Peter Manley

7-0 v John Part

2002 saw another whitewash, this time over hapless Manley, who was booed for years after he refused to shake Taylor’s hand. The chunky Englishman later blamed the scandal on his uncontrollable urge to run to the bathroom after the final, an excuse that won him little sympathy.

The Power’s seventh consecutive title was among his most dominant performances. He dropped just one set in the entire tournament and thrashed Part 7-0 in the final, with the dejected Canadian taking only three legs.

2004 3rd January

7-4 v Mark Dudbridge

4th January

7-6 v Kevin Painter

Taylor survived a sudden-death leg to see off Painter at the Circus Tavern. He was 4-1 down, but fought back to reduce the deficit to a single set, before eventually creeping 6-5 ahead. Painter levelled affairs to take the final to a shootout, with The Power winning an unbelievably tense encounter courtesy of a double five. He then announced his retirement, yet performed a spectacular U-turn just four days later.

2005

2006 3rd January

7-0 v Peter Manley

Manley suffered another whitewash at the hands of imperious Taylor. The semi-final, however, proved far trickier as The Power limped past Wayne ‘Hawaii 5.0.1’ Mardle 6-5.

2010

2009

Taylor secured another world title 12 months later, thus justifying his decision not to quit. He had to come from behind as gritty Dudbridge twice led (2-1 and 3-2) in the final.

4th January

7-1 v Raymond van Barneveld

Following a three-year lull, Taylor regained his form, crushing van Barneveld at Alexandra Palace. He also set a world record average for a tournament final of 110.94, truly underlining his status as world No.1.

3rd January

7-3 v Simon Whitlock

Taylor was sensational, losing just one set (to Scotland’s Robert Thornton in the third round) before brushing aside Whitlock in the final.

2013 1st January

7-4 v Michael van Gerwen

Having crashed out in the second round in 2012, for the first time in his career, Taylor (for once) didn’t start as favourite. Nonetheless, he cruised through the early rounds, dropping only one set. His 6-4 semi-final win over Raymond van Barneveld sparked controversy after The Power stormed off, claiming the Dutchman had shook his hand too firmly. In the final, Taylor bounced back from 4-2 down to see off van Gerwen.

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BIG-NAME WRITERS » GUEST COLUMNISTS » DEBATE

THIS MONTH… 50 ANDREW STRAUSS

Andrew tips England captain Alastair Cook to break some of Sachin Tendulkar’s records

52 PHIL VICKERY

Phil fancies England to win the Six Nations, but admits the tournament can be unpredictable

54 RORY MCILROY

Golf’s world No.1 reveals his four favourite courses in his native Northern Ireland


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Why Novak is far more than just a joker; Is ‘The Power’ one of sport’s true greats?

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Andrew tips Cook to rival Tendulkar; Phil thinks England will win the Six Nations

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We find out why oligarchs buy footy clubs; ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson tries conkers

FEBRUARY 2013

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ANDREW STRAUSS

COOK IS NO TENDULKAR…YET! I STRONGLY BELIEVE ENGLAND CAPTAIN ALASTAIR COOK WILL BREAK SOME OF SACHIN TENDULKAR’S RECORDS, BUT COOKY STILL HAS A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE HE SURPASSES THE LITTLE MASTER, writes Andrew Strauss

I

t is important to remember that one-day games for Somerset, he has Compton is currently the right person Sachin Tendulkar isn’t just a scored 1,650 runs at an average of to open with Alastair, Root will push phenomenal cricketer, he is a 56.89 and a strike rate of 119.13. I for that role too. national icon who is bigger even than can’t wait to see more of him over the Joe, Jos and Cooky aside, though, most Bollywood celebrities. This is coming months. England will have been pretty because cricket is a religion in India. Yorkshire batsman Root, dissatisfied with their batting in the As much as it pains me to say so, it meanwhile, posted a batting average of one-day series with India, especially will never be the most popular sport over 40 in the one-day series. I was Samit Patel, who made just 75 runs in England. That is why Alastair impressed by his calmness at the and failed to turn a few promising Cook will struggle to match Sachin’s crease. Joe is such an elegant, versatile starts into larger scores. aura, but I do fancy him to go down cricketer. He is capable of opening or Even the excellent Ian Bell, despite as England’s greatest ever batsman. can be slotted in anywhere in the a century in the fifth one-day In December’s sensational Test middle of the order. He is a quality international, wasn’t quite at his clinical victory in India, Cooky broke one of shot-maker and will no doubt be best. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja Sachin’s long-standing records, integral to England at the 2015 World caused England all kinds of problems becoming the youngest player in Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Joe and they will be very disappointed to history to reach 7,000 runs. We all could also have a key part to play in have only made 158 and 155 in the know he will now go on to pass the Test team. Although I think Nick second and third matches. One clear 10,000, but perhaps 15,000 sign of a top team is being isn’t out of reach either. able to register a respectable Alastair also had a solid score on an off-day and one-day series, despite the 3-2 England didn’t do that. loss. There was always likely I know Cooky won’t be to be a backlash after looking for excuses, but the England’s first success in conditions in India are both India since 1985, but I still unique and challenging. A think the lads left with plenty few of the guys didn’t get a of positives. After all, you see lot of time in the middle a lot of quality one-day sides during the Test series and get taken to pieces out there, thus had to adjust quickly, and that wasn’t the case which was always a big ask. with England. In addition, the new In particular, there were one-day rules could have two huge positives – Jos been a factor. I am not Buttler and Joe Root. sure they have had quite 22-year-old Buttler came in the effect the ICC wanted. for Craig Kieswetter (who Now, a new ball is used at was poor) for the final two each end, bowlers can one-day internationals. Jos is unleash two bouncers per an explosive batsman who over, there is no bowling can really put an exclamation powerplay, the batting 22-year-old Root has drawn comparisons with ex-England captain Michael Vaughan mark on an innings. In 53 powerplay can’t be used in

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ANDREW STRAUSS EX-ENGLAND TEST CAPTAIN

ALASTAIR COOK WILL STRUGGLE TO MATCH SACHIN’S AURA, BUT I DO FANCY HIM TO GO DOWN AS ENGLAND’S GREATEST EVER BATSMAN.


Cook could one day rival Tendulkar’s ever-increasing record of 15,643 Test runs, which includes 51 centuries

the final ten overs and no more than four fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle at any time. What this did was prompt England to channel almost all of their aggression into the last 10 overs. They basically spent the first 40 trying to set up a platform for a frantic finale. Personally, I think the new rules are a step backwards. They will force teams to play a cautious brand of cricket, as they fend off the new balls and try to keep wickets in hand. Tactically, I am not sure England really knew how to deal with the new tweaks and, having chucked away some early wickets, they looked lost in the middle of the innings. Nonetheless, despite the defeat to India, I still love the look of the one-day side – especially now Graham Thorpe has replaced Graham Gooch as coach, with the latter focusing exclusively on Test cricket. Thorpey is more up-to-date with one-day and Twenty20 cricket, so is a shrewd appointment by the ECB, who want specialist coaching staff in place for each form of the game – something they never really contemplated during my time as captain. In other words, as Gooch and Andy Flower plan for March’s Test tour of New Zealand and the back-to-back Ashes series, Thorpe and Ashley Giles can focus on June’s

INDIA 3 ENGLAND 2 FIRST ODI Rajkot: England (325-4) beat India (316-9) by nine runs SECOND ODI Kochi: India (285-6) beat England (155) by 127 runs THIRD ODI Ranchi: India (157-3) beat England (155) by seven wickets FOURTH ODI Mohali: India (258-5) beat England (257-7) by five wickets FIFTH ODI Dharmasala: England (227-3) beat India (226) by seven wickets

Champions Trophy in England, the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh early next year and the 2015 World Cup. These are all tours and tournaments I can’t wait to watch. I wasn’t expecting to see that much cricket after retiring, but it is hard to ignore your mates when they pop up on TV. However, I have also been turning my hand to rugby over the past month, a sport I used to play quite keenly at university. I was fortunate to spend some time with Stuart Lancaster and the England team ahead of the Six Nations. They are a really young, enthusiastic bunch. Stuart has clearly worked hard to forge a team spirit, and December’s stunning win over the All Blacks has helped build confidence. I offered them a bit of motivational advice on how to get to world No.1, and I think the guys were quite receptive to it. I have also been keeping a keen eye on cycling over the past few weeks, with Lance Armstrong finally admitting to doping. I thought Oprah Winfrey was an odd (and slightly soft) person to confess to, and felt Lance didn’t show much contrition. I

suppose it is helpful that he has finally come clean, although the evidence was so damning against him he had little choice. I must admit I feel really let down by Lance. He was a phenomenal guy who transcended cycling. You still can’t take away his brave victory over cancer, or the millions he has raised for charity, but his whole reputation was built off the back of those seven (now expunged) Tour de France wins, all of which he cheated in. His autobiography is both gripping and inspirational, so it is quite upsetting that it is largely lies. I am sure a few punters will be asking for refunds! Speaking of books, I didn’t make much headway with my own over the New Year. I have been doing quite a lot of contemplating but not much writing – I think the official term is writer’s block! I will get there slowly but surely, and I am still enjoying it, but I find this column a whole lot easier to pen than my own memoirs, that’s for sure!

SPORTS TALK

51


PHIL VICKERY

FORM COUNTS FOR NOTHING IN THE SIX NATIONS THE SIX NATIONS IS A CRAZY, FASCINATING RUGBY FIESTA WHERE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, writes Phil Vickery

I

always think the Six Nations is the most unpredictable tournament in rugby. It comes right at the start of the year and, given all the different rivalries, form tends to count for very little. The 2013 event has a bit of extra spice given it is a Lions year, so a lot of guys will be fighting to don the famous red shirt in Australia this summer. Wales are still the stand-out side in the northern hemisphere, despite losing their last eight games,

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including that 30-22 opening Six Nations defeat to Ireland. The 2012 Grand Slam champions haven’t suddenly become a bad team, but there is undoubtedly pressure now on interim coach Rob Howley and Cardiff kicker Leigh Halfpenny. As for England, they have pretty much huffed and puffed under Stuart Lancaster, then, out of the blue, produced the stand-out performance of 2012 as they battered New Zealand 38-21 at Twickenham last December.

Consequently, a lot is expected of them in this year’s Six Nations. That can often work against you, so captain Chris Robshaw will be relieved to have beaten Scotland (38-18) in the first game. As a former skipper, I totally understand the pressure on his shoulders. Sadly, if England underperforms there will be those calling for the Harlequins flanker to be stripped of the armband. Luckily, Chris is not only thick-skinned, but surrounded by talent, old and young. There is a

PHIL VICKERY EX-ENGLAND CAPTAIN

I PREFERRED GOING INTO THE SIX NATIONS AS UNDERDOGS. IN 2004, HAVING COMPLETED A SENSATIONAL WORLD CUP AND SIX NATIONS DOUBLE IN 2003, EVERYONE EXPECTED US TO TRIUMPH, AND THE MASS EXPECTANCY CONSUMED US A LITTLE BIT.


great balance in the squad between fiery kids, like Joe Launchbury, Tom Youngs and Billy Twelvetrees, and gutsy veterans including Chris Ashton, Geoff Parling and Dan Cole. Personally, I preferred going into the Six Nations as underdogs. In 2004, having completed a sensational World Cup and Six Nations double in 2003, everyone expected us to triumph, and the mass expectancy consumed us a little bit. We eased past Italy (50-9), Scotland (35-13) and Wales (31-21), but Ireland (13-19) and France (21-24) narrowly got the better of us. Those defeats brought us down to earth with a bump. France won the Grand Slam that year, inspired by top try scorer Imanol Harinordoquy, and I like the look of them again this campaign. Philippe Saint-Andre’s men are world-beaters at their peak, but when they have an off day they are terrible, as they provided in their astonishing 23-18 loss to Italy. The same can be said of Ireland, who underlined their immense potential against Wales. Declan Kidney’s squad are the real dark horses this year, especially with clinical Leinster kicker Jonathan Sexton and speedy Munster winger Simon Zebo among their ranks. Irish domestic rugby is very healthy right now, and that will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the national team. The Ulster lads, in particular, will still be buzzing after their tense 9-8 Heineken Cup victory at Castres – the club’s first ever on French soil. Burly Leinster No.8 Jamie Heaslip has now been made captain, while the magical Brian O’Driscoll is back at centre, and the

Owen Farrell kicked 18 points as Robshaw’s England outclassed Scotland to retain the Calcutta Cup in their Six Nations opener at Twickenham

PREDICTIONS WINNERS England WOODEN SPOON Italy TOP PLAYER Joe Launchbury (England) TOP TRY SCORER Chris Ashton (England) TOP POINTS SCORER Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)

fact he doesn’t have to stress about leading the side will only aid his game. If the 34-year-old stays fit, energetic Ireland will be extremely tough to break down, particularly at the Aviva Stadium. Scotland and Italy are probably the only two teams who realistically can’t win this year’s Six Nations. I honestly felt the Scots were making great strides in 2011, but I now fear interim coach Scott Johnson has his work cut out. The problem is Scottish stalwarts Euan Murray and Jim Hamilton are starting to wane and readymade replacements aren’t exactly queuing up. On the upside, Edinburgh centre Matt Scott and tireless Glasgow full-back Stuart Hogg both have big futures. Plus, the fact that everyone has written Scotland off will galvanise them to try and cause a big upset.

In August 1974, Clough replaced Don Revie at Leeds, despite previously suggesting the club should be relegated for their poor discipline, but he couldn’t replicate the success he enjoyed at Derby County and Nottingham Forest

27-year-old Sexton, who has 104 caps for Leinster, has never looked back since replacing Ronan O’Gara in 2009 and is Phil’s tip for top points scorer

Along with the giant-killing victory over France this year, Italy also caused a shock or two in 2012. They almost stunned England at the Stadio Olimpico, eventually losing 19-15, and comfortably dispatched Scotland (13-6) in the final game to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon. The Azzurri are no longer the Six Nations whipping boys and, like Scotland, have very little pressure on them. All they are looking to do is build ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England. As much as we mock ourselves in the northern hemisphere, and occasionally claim our brand of rugby isn’t as pure as in Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, the Six Nations is still the envy of the egg-shaped world. It just has so much history attached to it – from the passionate fans to iconic stadiums, like Twickenham or Murrayfield. Once the event starts, stats, history and, most importantly, reputation go right out the window: it is just 80 minutes of blood and thunder. Ultimately, that is why I think England will win this year. They are a composed, ultra-physical unit who won’t be unnerved playing away from home. Of course, having won 73 caps for the Three Lions, I will no doubt be accused of being biased, but before you make that accusation just remember I am 20 stone and don’t appreciate being told that to my face! FEBRUARY 2013

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RORY MCILROY

Northern Ireland WORLD NO.1 RORY MCILROY REVEALS HIS FOUR FAVOURITE GOLF COURSES ON HIS NATIVE TURF

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G

olf has become so popular in Northern Ireland that some of the top tracks are booked up months in advance, especially Royal County Down. The serene province, with a population of just 1.8 million, first caught the golf bug in 1881 when politician Thomas Sinclair returned smitten from a summer trip to St Andrews and hastily established Royal Belfast. Since then, some majestic links and parkland courses have emerged, including Rory McIlroy’s very own Holywood Golf Club and last year’s Irish Open host, Royal Portrush. As the winter freeze slowly dissipates, do rush to book your Easter or summer golfing excursion to avoid disappointment.

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RORY MCILROY

Royal Portrush

Par 72, 7,143 Yards

trim Portrush, County An 11 23 82 70  +44 28 b.com  royalportrushgolfclu AED 900

This is among my favourite places to golf in Northern Ireland – one of the truly breathtaking links courses. Royal Portrush is a seaside club that boasts a stunning, rugged landscape which runs across the Atlantic shore. It has two courses, the Valley Links and Dunluce Links, both of which are Harry S Colt masterpieces. I hold the course record on the latter, which I set as a 16-year-old at the North of Ireland Amateur Open. I shot a 61, but at the turn I was convinced a 59 was on the cards. Sadly, however, the wind picked up on the back nine. The Dunluce Links also staged the 1951 Open – the first and only time the event has been held outside mainland UK – which was won by Englishman Max Faulkner. I would dearly love another Open here. It would be a dream to win a Major on home soil.

BUSHMILLS INN One of Ireland’s most illustrious (and luxurious) four-star hotels, Bushmills Inn is just a stone’s throw away from Royal Portrush, Old Bushmills Distillery, Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The award-winning Victorian boutique hotel has 41 rooms, along with a secret library where you can try a glass of malt from the hotel’s very own private cask. From AED 800 per night  +44 28 2073 3000

DID YOU KNOW ? English is the most

popular language in Northern Ireland, but Irish and Ulster Scots are still prevalent in several pockets. However, bizarrely, Chinese is the most widely spoken minority tongue in the region!

 bushmillsinn.com

Royal County Down Royal County Down is ranked among the top 100 courses in the world. Designed by Old Tom Morris, it has been leaving golfers breathless for well over a century, and has become the yardstick against which other tracks in Northern Ireland are measured. The first hole is brilliant: it is often engulfed by an eerie mist, which masks the tall dunes, while wild tossocky-faced bunkers guard the undulating green. I made my only Walker Cup appearance here and, although we lost, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When I go home, I sometimes play a round with my mates at Royal County Down. I firmly believe the course deserves a European Tour event one day.

SLIEVE DONARD RESORT & SPA The hotel is right next door to Royal County Down, overlooking Newcastle's long beach and set against the backdrop of the mesmeric Mourne mountains. A former railway haunt, the 115-year-old building retains an air of grandeur. Facilities include six luxury suites and a two-tiered spa. From AED 600 per night  +44 28 9047 1066  hastingshotels.com

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Par 71, 7,186 Yards

Newcastle, County Down

 +44 28 4372 3314  royalcountydown.or AED 900

g


Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, offers daily flights to Belfast, with just a brief stopover in Manchester. Flights to Belfast International Airport, which is 30 minutes (20 miles) from the town centre, take just over nine hours. However, the mammoth journey will fly by thanks to Etihad’s first-rate hospitality, which is easily the best in the business. Along with all the usual trappings, like a welcome drink and a free newspaper, Pearl Business and Diamond First also offer free anytime dining, so fear not if you wake up in the middle of the night with an unquenchable craving for a steak sandwich or some cookie dough ice-cream! The A340-500 aircraft is spacious, elegantly decorated (in Manchester City blue) and extremely comfortable – the high-tech seats even have a

massage facility! The in-flight entertainment is unparalleled, and you don’t even have to wait for the plane to take off to start watching it. We recommend Moneyball, which tells the story of the Oakland Athletics’ remarkable 20-game winning streak under analytical general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Curb Your Enthusiasm, which charts loveable Larry David’s inadvertent run-ins with most of humanity, including Ricky Gervais and Michael J Fox!

Lough Erne Inspired by Loch Lomond – and just a touch like Augusta – tree-lined Lough Erne only opened in July 2009, but its Faldo Course is already being touted as a potential Irish Open host. Five years ago, I played Padraig Harrington here in the inaugural Lough Erne Challenge, firing a course record 68 to win by two shots. It is a really tough challenge, with plenty of water hazards, especially at the 13th and 18th. Lough Erne is just a brilliant way to spend a weekend and one of the first places I go when back from Florida.

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Par 72, 7,167 Yards

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LOUGH ERNE RESORT The five-star resort has 120 rooms, a high-end restaurant (run by Ireland’s top celebrity chef, Noel McMeel) and a Thai spa with a thermal suite and an infinity pool. Room rates include one complimentary round on the Faldo Course. From AED 750 per night  +44 28 6632 3230  lougherneresort.com

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RORY MCILROY

Holywood Golf Club Par 69, 6,118 Yards

wn Holywood, County Do 35 31 42 90 28 4  +4 k  holywoodgolfclub.co.u AED 125

WHERE TO GO?

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY

I can’t finish without mentioning my home course, which offers an incredibly affordable round and is a wonderful place to learn golf. Holywood is a lot of fun, albeit a touch quirky. There’s only one par-five and the ninth and tenth are back-to-back par-threes. What I love about the place is that it has absolutely no airs or graces. Embarrassingly, the clubhouse is now a bit of a shrine to me. There are pictures of me as a two-year-old learning to putt, right through to snaps of my two Major triumphs. Holywood is a delightful parkland track, with some spectacular views – especially the 11th and 12th, which are situated on the highest part of the course. From both you can see Belfast Harbour and the factory of Harland and Wolff, the renowned Irish shipmakers who built the ill-fated Titanic.

Volcanic crashing and burning , sixty million years ago, led to the formatio n of Giant's Causeway, a coastline that has inspired artists, stirred debate among scientists and captivated the imagination of visitors for centuries. Made up of nearly 40, 000 basalt columns that stretch out to sea, the formation of this strange land scape can be explained by science. Locals, how ever, swear blind the place was the stomping ground of legendary giant Fin n McCool!

 +44 28 2073 1855  nationaltr ust.org/giants-causeway

BUSHMILLS WHISKEY DISTILLERY

Believed to be the oldest dist illery in the world, Bushmills received its licence from (drunk) King James I (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) in 1608. The facility was destroyed by a fire in 1888, but promptly rebuilt. A bottle of their fine st malt makes for an excellent souvenir.

 +44 28 2073 3218  bushm ills.com

CARRICK-A-REDE

LOUGH NEAGH

Take the exhilarating rope brid ge to Carrick-a-Rede island and enjoy a truly memorable (if mildly terrifyi ng) experience. This100-feet-deep and 66 feet -wide chasm is traversed by a rope bridge traditionally erected by salmon fishermen. Visitors bold enough to cross to the rocky island are rewarded with some spectacu lar views.

 +44 28 2076 9839  nationaltr ust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede

Although not as famous as its Scottish counterpart, Loch Ness, Lough Neagh is still rich in mythical tales and daily ‘sightings’. The largest freshwa ter lake in the British Isles, it is full of wildlife and, if legend is to be believed, mon sters too!

 +44 28 7941 7941  discoverlo ughneagh.com

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CULLODEN ESTATE & SPA Set in 12 acres of secluded gardens in the Holywood Hills, and originally built as a palace for the Bishops of Down, the hotel has 105 rooms and suites, plus a spacious spa with a decent size swimming pool. From AED 900 per night  +44 28 9047 1066  hastingshotels.com


M.C.F.C. M.C.F.C. Manchester City Football Club, we salute you.

Congratulations to everyone at Manchester City FC on being crowned the Barclays Premier League champions 2011/ 12. From your proud partners, Etihad – the World’s Leading Airline. etihad.com

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Client: Etihad Campaign: MCFC

Proof No: 01

Publication: ME Sports Talk Insertion Date: 16/05/2012


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TRAINING GROUND

TOP TUITION » SPORTS NUTRITION » GYM ROUTINES

THIS MONTH… 62 VICTORIA HASSETT

The Yas Links pro gives her tips on how to get up and down from a tricky lie

64 TAM KHAN

The ‘Brown Bomber’ shares three basic moves to win your first MMA fight

66 DAFYDD JAMES

The ex-Lions star offers a fat-burning circuit to reverse the damage of festive bingeing


YAS LINKS

GETTING UP AND DOWN HOW MANY TIMES, HAVING BLASTED A PERFECT DRIVE DOWN THE CENTRE OF THE FAIRWAY, DO WE PUSH OUR APPROACH RIGHT OF THE GREEN AND END UP SCRAMBLING FOR PAR?, writes Yas Links pro Victoria Hassett

T

o make matters worse, sometimes, like on Yas’ signature 16th, we also end up on high ground, with very little green to work with.To recover from this daunting position, you must learn how to stop the ball quickly.

THE HIGHMLICH MANOEUVRE Shots from high ground, with limited green to work with, require the most lofted club in your bag. Generating height is pivotal, so before you take your grip, ensure the clubface is open. Initially, it should point to the right of the target. Thus, you must move the rest of your body the same distance left as the clubface is right, ensuring your shoulders are still aligned to the ball. This will encourage your club to swing on a square path, which promotes backspin, rather than side, and thus prevents unwanted curvature.

Your backswing should be similar to that of a pitch. As you swing through to impact, however, try to feel you hold the loft on the clubface and maintain the angle in your left wrist. Finish with the grooves on the clubface pointing towards you, as opposed to allowing the right forearm to rotate over the left like with a normal shot. This will maximise loft, creating the height and backspin necessary to stop the ball quickly.

VICTORIA’S TIP

To effectively strike down on the ball, right handed golfers should aim to keep 60 percent of their weight on their left side, with the ball positioned just left of centre. 62

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DON’T CHOKE ON THE GREENS So, you have now executed the ideal shot from high ground, and your ball is sitting perfectly on the putting surface; but that’s worth nothing if you can’t proficiently roll the rock! Your chances of holing out will increase massively with a solid set-up. Before you think about line or speed, make sure your eyes are correctly aligned over the ball. To make sure this is the case, adopt your usual putting stance, then grab a second golf ball and drop it from between your eyes. It should fall right on top of your first ball. When putting, your eyeline is responsible for the swing path, so keeping it directly over the target will make sure the club travels back and forth in a straight line. A common fault I see among many amateurs, especially with longer putts, is too much lower body movement. This results in excess forearm rotation, which causes the head to close and consequently makes putts miss left. To fix this annoying problem,

try putting on one leg! This will train your lower body to stay still throughout the stroke, and also emphasise how the shoulders must rock to create a smooth pendulum-like motion. In addition, to further improve your kinaesthetic feel, you can also try putting with your eyes closed! This fun exercise will prevent you from automatically following the line of the putt as soon as you have hit it, thus improving the consistency and smoothness of your stroke. It will give you a sense of direction and distance control and, over time, diminish your chances of choking when it really matters!

VICTORIA’S TIP

Before you open your eyes, try to sense which side of the hole you missed the putt on, and whether it was long or short.

For more information about tuition at Yas Links, including various ladies programmes, please contact Victoria via vhassett@yaslinks.com. FEBRUARY 2013

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TAM KHAN

DON’T BE CAGEY – TRY MMA!

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS (MMA) IS A PHENOMENAL WAY TO KEEP FIT, writes ‘Brown Bomber’ Tam Khan

D

on’t be cagey about giving MMA a go. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a brutal cage bout between two brainless blokes. That stereotype comes from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – a promotional (and mega-trendy) arm of an otherwise predominantly bloodless sport. Believe it or not, MMA is far less precarious than rugby or boxing. Admittedly, it can look quite vicious, but the violence is stringently policed. For example, when a fighter gets floored, the referee immediately stops proceedings. You can even win a fight without landing a single punch or kick. A simple move, like a guillotine choke (where you wrap your arms around your opponent’s trachea), is often enough for victory. The secret to success is actually brains. An MMA fight is like a game of chess: a test of tactics and patience. It is an intelligent tussle, not a spontaneous scrap. MMA is essentially a hybrid of various combat styles. If you fight standing, you must punch; when you fall to the ground, wrestling is required. You can pretty much try any move, so it really is the closest thing to real-life combat – and is thus a useful self-defence tool to have in your armoury. Although the sadistic glamour of UFC has rapidly propelled MMA onto the world stage, it has actually been popular for longer than most people realise, even appearing in the inaugural Olympics of 1896. MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It is fashionable because it has all the glamour of WWE, but none of its fakery. It is also open to people of all shapes, sizes and ages and, perhaps most importantly, is a terrific way to get or stay fit.

TH E RU LE S THREE MOVES TO WIN YOUR FIRST FIGHT

1

JAB, CROSS, HOOK

To jab, move your left shoulder forward, locking your left arm and elbow out, forcing the palm of the hand downward towards the floor. Next, throw your right hand away from your face, rising up on your back right toe. As you pivot left, rotate your hip forward, locking your right arm straight out. Make sure that the right elbow is up and the palm is facing the floor. Finally, to hook, shift your body weight onto your right foot. Pivot on your left foot as you bring your left arm around. Your elbow and hand must stay parallel.

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Standard fights are three rounds; UFC ones five. Each lasts for five minutes, with two-minute breaks between. During the bout, you must not head-butt, hair-pull,

eye-gouge, bite or fish-hook. You also can’t tug on your opponent’s gloves or trunks, or attack the back of their head, spine or groin. Victory is secured via knockout, submission, a stoppage by the referee or the disqualification of your opponent. If no winner emerges, the result hinges upon the judges’ scorecards.

TAM’S TIP

Keep your chin down and hands up, and tuck your elbows in. When you hook, don’t let your other hand fall too low or you will be very susceptible to a knockout.


2

DOUBLE LEG TAKEDOWN

The double leg takedown is quite similar to a football tackle. It involves grabbing your opponent with both arms around the legs,

keeping your chest close to him at all times. From this position, you should be able to force him to the ground with a lift or a slam, or by pushing forward with your shoulder while simultaneously pulling on his legs.

TAM’S TIP

This is a fantastic move to use as a surprise tactic, but don’t let it backfire. If you try it from too far out your opponent will see it coming. Be careful not to just bow your head and bend – you could get caught with a knee knockout.

3

ARM BAR

The arm bar is a form of joint lock used to solicit a submission. It is performed by placing your legs across your opponent’s chest, with one of his arms between your thighs and the elbow joint against your hips. From here, grab him with your arms and place his forearm on your chest. To lock his arm, lean back and arch your hips at the same time. This creates intense pressure in the elbow joint and will soon force a submission.

TAM’S TIP

Tam Khan is owner of Contender MMA and the promoter for the Dubai Fighting Championship. To contact him email tam@contendermma.com or call +971 5 0857 1852.

First and foremost, retain control of your opponent’s arms. Don’t overanticipate and just throw your legs over. FEBRUARY 2013

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DAFYDD JAMES

BURN, BABY, BURN! THIS FAT-BURNING CIRCUIT WILL GET RID OF THE DAMAGE DONE BY EXCESSIVE FESTIVE BINGEING, writes ex-Lions star Dafydd James

W

e all put on weight over the New Year period, but burning off the Christmas turkey is easier than you think. This circuit combines explosive strength and power to really ignite the internal engine. The idea is to speed up your metabolism and thus shed calories. Do 25 reps for each exercise (or as many as you can handle), with a 30-second break between each, and a minute’s rest at the end. Repeat the circuit three or four times.

FAT-BURNING CIRCUIT

(25 REPS FOR EACH) 1. DEAD LIFTS (60KG) 2. BOX JUMPS 3. KETTLEBELL SWINGS (16-32KG) 4. PRESS-UPS 5. BURPEES 6. TRX ROWS

WARM UP

Jump on either an exercise bike or a rowing machine for a couple of minutes. Then do some dynamic lunges and squats.

1

DEAD LIFTS

This is probably the hardest exercise on the circuit, but the whole point is to throw you right in at the deep end. Dead lifts are designed to work your quads, lower back and shoulders. Put 60kg on the barbell, or whatever you feel comfortable with.

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DAF’S TIP

Don’t go too heavy – there is no point showing off and wearing yourself out.

BOX JUMPS Next it’s box jumps, which, as the name suggests, are explosive leaps onto a 24-inch platform. This is a simple way to raise your heart rate.


3

KETTLEBELL SWINGS

We then move on to 16kg (or, if you’re feeling ambitious, 32kg) kettlebell swings between your legs. This is another brilliant full-body exercise.

4 5

PRESS-UPS

The fourth phase is press-ups, which work your upper body (chest, shoulders, back and arms). You can rest your feet on the floor or the box you used for the jumps.

BURPEES

We all hate doing burpees, but they are fantastic for the heart and lungs. Start in a standing position, drop to a squat, with your hands on the ground, then extend your feet back in one smooth motion and assume the plank position, before returning back to the squat and then standing up again.

BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE

6

TRX ROW

Having done some pushing exercises, for balance we finish with a pull. The TRX is an excellent means of building core and upper back stability.

Alongside this circuit, to burn fat you need to keep the right diet. Busy UAE expats often skip breakfast, which is a massive no-no . If you are in a rush, and want a healthy start to the day, I have concocted a tasty fat-c utting smoothie that will banish those mid-m orning hunger pangs. The secret ingredient is cinnamon, which cleverly regulates your blood sugar and ensures a healthy horm one balance. If you want to build extra musc le you can also add a scoop of protein to the below recipe.

Reci pe 4 ice cubes 1 tablespoon of cinn a mon 1 bana na 10 blue berries 300 ml of skim med milk or water Dafydd James is a Dubai-based personal trainer. For inquiries about private sessions, please contact Daf on dj@dafydd-james.com or visit dafydd-james.com. FEBRUARY 2013

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SECOND HALF

AWARDS » DREAM PRIZES » RIB-TICKLING HUMOUR

THIS MONTH… 70 OLIGARCHS

Walter Hale investigates whether rich tycoons buy football clubs for love, power or political gain

78 BEAT THE PRO

Longsands front man Trevor Cox challenges ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson to a game of conkers

82 DRIVE HOME

Shahzad Sheikh tries the MP4-12C Spider with McLaren’s chief test driver Chris Goodwin


THE GAFFER BEN JACOBS EDITOR

CAN THE UAE MILK THEIR GULF CUP TRIUMPH? T

wenty thousand exuberant Emiratis crammed into Bahrain’s National Stadium to watch the UAE’s pulsating 2-1 Gulf Cup final victory over Iraq in January. In the aftermath, scores more jubilant fans partied into the wee hours, exhibiting an infectious sense of national pride, which even we expats weren’t impervious to. In truth, this was partly down to the incessant car hooting – a Middle Eastern symbol of patriotism – which kept most of us up all night, but also because Mahdi Ali’s gifted troops are hard not to like. His Under-23 side won plenty of plaudits at London 2012, and 17 of them were involved in Riffa too, including effervescent Al Ain playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, who spent the summer on trial with Manchester City. It was two of the less heralded squad members, however, who made all the difference at the Gulf Cup. Off the back of a thoroughly abysmal Olympics, 2008 Young Asian Footballer of the Year Ahmed Khalil scored a dramatic late goal in the 1-0 semi-final victory over 10-time champions Kuwait, while Al Ahli striker Ismail Al Hammadi came off the bench to heroically grab the extra-time winner in the final. The trick now is for the UAE to cash in on their success. Once the street cavalcades dissipate and the celebratory postage stamps have all been licked, the triumph must be used to help elevate the profile of local football – but the harsh truth is it probably won’t be. “We would have to qualify and then probably win the 2015 Asian Cup for that to happen,” candid Ali told me. “Victory in Bahrain is something we will never forget, but I don’t think it will attract extra crowds to domestic or national team games. I am also not sure most UAE expats could even name more than one or two of my squad.” The UAE coach has been extremely (and refreshingly) critical of paltry attendances in the past, to the point where, in the build-up to the Gulf Cup, he shipped his side to Doha as he was worried playing friendlies in empty stadia might damage morale. Unless Manchester United or Barcelona are in town, it will always be a challenge to get bums on seats, especially when games are, at large, poorly marketed and kick-off times occur at unsociable hours. You would think that the Pro League would be gagging to piggyback on the UAE’s glory in Bahrain, yet the day after their victory they cancelled all weekend games, just when a whole new audience might actually have turned up. Granted, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan laid on free flights to Bahrain, but even without that extremely benevolent gesture, a healthy turnout for the final was expected. That proves a passion for UAE football does exist, but the Pro League really aren’t doing enough to exploit it. It is a sad state of affairs when a club like 2011 champions Al Jazira has to give away a Ferrari just to get (car) fans through the door. On a different note, the mass exodus to Bahrain did have a downside too, since the chaos it caused was not well received by FIFA. The Gulf Cup is gagging for their endorsement and although the UAE did their part to wow football’s governing body on the field, off it organisers failed to overcome virtually every logistical challenge they faced. Hundreds were turned away from Bahrain International Airport upon arrival, there was no accreditation system in place for media and, worst of all, too many punters were let into the National Stadium, risking a Hillsborough-style tragedy. These issues didn’t go unnoticed by UEFA president Michael Platini who, along with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, was in attendance. “We really want to endorse the Gulf Cup,” said Platini. “All the big things are in place. It is a superb tournament, but there are still some problems stopping us officially rubber-stamping it. FIFA has set safety, ticket sale and press procedures and these must be adhered to otherwise madness ensues.” Platini is quite right. It beggars belief that a tournament as prestigious as the Gulf Cup could be run so haphazardly. When this happens, it also fuels an annoying myth that other sports events in the Middle East are equally disorganised – something that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (18 February-2 March) – an impeccably run tournament that has consistently been voted the top event on the circuit by the players for the past two decades. This year, Novak Djokovic, fresh from his battling Australian Open victory over Andy Murray, and five-time winner and defending champion Roger Federer, are the headline men’s names, while world No.1 Victoria Azarenka and 14-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams are part of one of the strongest ever women’s fields. We have recruited former British No.1 Annabel Croft to preview the event, while we talk to Djokovic as well about his childhood in volatile Serbia and how it helped transform him into an on-court warrior. This month we are also delighted to welcome Phil Vickery to Sports Talk as our Six Nations expert, while Andrew Strauss pens his second column for us, looking back on England’s one-day series loss in India. Don’t forget too, the Sports Talk All-Sports Awards are still open. You can vote for your favourite stars, events and clubs in the region via our website, mesportstalk.com, to stand a chance of winning a dream all-expenses-paid trip to the FA Cup Final. Enjoy February’s issue!

benj@mesportstalk.com @JacobsBen facebook.com/mesportstalk

THE TRICK NOW IS FOR THE UAE TO CASH IN ON THEIR SUCCESS. ONCE THE STREET CAVALCADES DISSIPATE AND THE CELEBRATORY POSTAGE STAMPS HAVE ALL BEEN LICKED, THE TRIUMPH MUST BE USED TO HELP ELEVATE THE PROFILE OF LOCAL FOOTBALL.

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Abramovich spent billions trying to procure Chelsea the Champions League trophy, a feat they finally achieved last season, yet manager Roberto Di Matteo was still sacked six months later

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obody could accuse Serhiy Kurchenko, the 28-year-old who owns Ukranian champions Metalist Kharkiv, of lacking ambition: “Our goal is to bring the European Cup to Kharkiv within five years,” he proclaimed in December. “If we don’t succeed I will be extremely disappointed and angry.” Conquering Europe in that timescale is, to borrow a fashionable cliché, “a big ask”, especially for a club that has never made it past the last 16 of the Europa League. It also doesn’t help that Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have declared that they too will win the Champions League in that timescale. Success in Europe cost Roman Abramovich around £1.8 billion and, with the zillions pumped into clubs like Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City, the price to procure the Champions League trophy is soaring by the season. At this point in proceedings, many fans – those young (or ignorant) enough to see the game purely as a spectacle on the pitch, and those old enough to remember a time when the words ‘football’ and ‘finance’ seldom appeared in the same sentence – will be thoroughly bored. Football should be about teams and players, not billionaires, sheikhs and steel magnates. Unfortunately, the unprecedented investments being pumped into Europe’s top

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clubs have turned a sport which once revelled in its status as ‘the people’s game’ into what the Guardian’s Barney Ronay calls “oil-ball”, where the super-rich savour an insulated world full of no variables and thus gain “instant velvet-roped access to the winner’s podium”. In other words, the oligarchs are trying to ruin the game as a spectacle, to dilute the struggle, the brilliant fluke of success.

THEY ARE SO RICH THEY DON’T HAVE TO CONSULT ANYONE BEFORE SPENDING Rich folk have always invested in football. Yet many owners – like the Cobbolds at Ipswich, the Vanden Stocks at Anderlecht and even the Morattis at Inter Milan – forged firm roots in the local community first. They invested in their own backyard and treated their club as a long-term asset to be nurtured over time. However, in the last decade, there has been an unprecedented injection of capital into European football, an increasing proportion of which is being made by rich royals, self-made billionaires and family-run companies from the Middle East and Asia. This species of football investor has certain distinguishing features. The source of the wealth used to buy clubs is not always apparent (neither, on occasion, is the identity of the owners


themselves), though many of their fortunes derive from oil, gas or steel. They make sweeping statements about trophies they will win. To fulfil such boasts, they hire a stellar coach or sporting director. They then spend lavishly on players. Some of these transfers – notably Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain) – pay off. Owners with smaller budgets or inept scouts might end up buying the contemporary equivalents of such mercenaries as Pierre (“£7k a week is fine for the homeless, but not for me”) van Hooijdonk, who left Celtic in 1997 because he felt they were barely paying him enough dough to survive! The costs of such drastic transfer activity can be offset by lucrative sponsorships from companies that are linked to the new owners, the most flagrant being the Qatar Tourist Authority’s £830 million deal to support the Qatari Investment Authority-owned PSG. In fairness, this model isn’t endorsed by all rich owners. Rinat Akhmetov has run Shakhtar Donetsk with such financial prudence that even Arsene Wenger might grudgingly approve. Russian gas giant Gazprom has spent heavily, but not recklessly, on Zenit St Petersburg. Meanwhile, Greek club PAOK would undoubtedly have gone bust if Russian tobacco tycoon Ivan Savvidi hadn’t bankrolled an £8.3 million takeover. Yet many of these new owners are oligarchs, who made their fortunes in markets that weren’t completely open and are so filthy rich that they have no need to consult anyone before splashing the cash. This type of investor has been acquiring clubs across Europe: in England (Birmingham, Blackpool, Blackburn, 50 percent of Bournemouth, Cardiff, Chelsea, Fulham, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester City, Nottingham Forest and Reading); France (Monaco, PSG); Greece (PAOK); Germany (Hoffenheim); Holland (Vitesse Arnhem, owned by Georgian businessman Merab Jordania); Russia (Anzhi Makhachkala, Krasnodar, Spartak Moscow, Terek Grozny, Zenit St Petersburg); Scotland (Hearts); Spain (Getafe, Malaga, Racing Santander and Real Oviedo, in which Mexican media magnate Carlos Slim has a stake); Switzerland (Neuchatel Xamax); and Ukraine (Arsenal Kyiv, Chornomorets Odesa, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Dynamo Kyiv, Karpaty Liv, Metalist Kharkov, Metalurh Donetsk and Shakhtar Donetsk). Such actions certainly aren’t going unnoticed. Lyon’s outspoken chairman Jean-Michel Aulas has identified Abu Dhabi and Dubai as a potential source of new capital for his club, while Inter have recently sold 15 percent of their shares to Chinese Railway Construction as they bid to raise their profile in Asia. Meanwhile, rumours of a Qatari bid for Manchester United won’t die, especially after United rocked up at the Aspire Academy in Doha this month for some warm-weather training.

DID ABRAMOVICH BUY CHELSEA TO WARD OFF THE WRATH OF PUTIN? At this point, it seems pertinent to ask: what’s in it for these business magnates? The most innocent explanation – sheer love of football – can’t be totally dismissed. Within the game, this phenomenon is known as ‘fan in the box syndrome’. Zhu Jun, who made his fortune selling the World of Warcraft computer game in China, and brought Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba to Shanghai Shenhua, put it simply when talking to the Financial Times: “Football is a game every

man loves,” he reasoned. “You don’t enter it to make a profit. You get involved because it is an extremely pleasurable addiction – a game that provides the kind of thrill you just can’t put a price on.” Nonetheless, there are conspiracists who argue otherwise. For instance, there are countless theories as to why Abramovich purchased Chelsea, including that it helped keep Russian president Vladimir Putin onside. Less cynical pundits maintain he just fell in love with the game. Yet this Damascene conversion might not have occurred exactly when Roman said it did – at Old Trafford watching Manchester United beat Real Madrid 4-3 in 2003 – since he had already been eyeing up Tottenham before then. Still, the billions he has invested, the abuse he has ignored and the inconveniently high profile (for a man who makes his money selling, buying and managing assets) owning Chelsea has given him, suggest he may just be, in essence, the world’s richest fantasy footballer. Where some spot love, others detect ego. Zhu’s hands-on approach at Shenhua has led him to pick himself for prestigious friendlies (“Many rich people will be jealous when they see me playing football with professionals” he boasted before last July’s friendly with Manchester United), threaten to sell the club and – in the most bizarre promotion since Roman Emperor Caligula made his horse a senator – briefly let Anelka coach the team. Zhu’s grotesque antics show just how quickly buying a club can transform a mogul’s profile. Some football-mad tycoons who lived under Communist regimes – notably Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek billionaire who owns 29 percent of Arsenal – have found this limelight insufferable. Yet others, such as commodities magnate Suleyman Kerimov, who bought Russian side Anzhi in 2011, have basked in it, making international headlines by recruiting the likes of Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto’o and Guus Hiddink. Cameroonian striker Eto’o insists that Anzhi are “striving to be like Barcelona”. To sceptics, Kerimov’s strategy seems more akin to Manchester City’s, but he insists that a strong side, with £126 million invested in its infrastructure, will inspire the kind of pride in Dagestan that Barcelona has given to Catalonia. “People are starting to hope for and expect better,” he explained. “Such stars don’t play at every club, and look – they are in Makhachkala! These names will inspire a whole

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Nasser Al-Khelaifi unveils Ibrahimovic after his £15.7m move from AC Milan last July

Rinat Akhmetov celebrates Shakhtar’s 2009 UEFA Cup final win over Werder Bremen

new generation and really put Russia on the map ahead of the 2018 World Cup.” This may sound grandiose but Kerimov’s short-term aspirations are more realistic than some: he simply wants to enter the Champions League in the next season or two, not win it. Some industry insiders argue that the status that matters to new owners has nothing to do with profile and is instead all about joining a wealthy, glamorous elite. If you judge the sport by the revenue it generates, football is a powerful global industry. Yet in terms of the relations between organisations and people, it can feel claustrophobically compact, almost Masonic. If you want to do business with the billionaires who run football clubs, why not buy your own? This seems crude but you can play a half-decent Kevin Bacon game with the ties between these football-mad tyrants, with Abramovich as Bacon. Usmanov and Abramovich are shareholders in a nickel and palladium company. One of the Chelsea owner’s fellow investors in a steel and mining group is Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a leader of the Privat Group and effective chairman of 2006 Intertoto Cup runners-up Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. In 2004, Kolomoyskyi was blocked from buying a Ukrainian ore plant by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man and president of Shakhtar Donetsk. In 2005, Akhmetov lost out in a steel mill auction to the Mittal family, who own 20 percent of Queens Park Rangers. One of Mittal’s partners, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, was mulling a bid for Chelsea in 2003 when a certain Russian emerged from nowhere to buy the club. All this isn’t meant to be the basis for a David Icke-style global conspiracy theory about a secret cabal of oligarchs seizing control of European football. It merely indicates some of the ways that football and business now overlap (especially when so many super-rich owners are in the same industries or countries) and why an ambitious young billionaire might see a football club as a ticket to a very different kind of big league. The financial rationale for buying a football club used to be abundantly clear: real estate. In some countries, especially 74

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Ramzan Kadyrov (above) scored twice against Brazil in March 2011, while Reading owner Anton Zingarevich (below) is trying to bring the Samba Boys to the Madejski Stadium next summer


England, such opportunities are now rare. If you purchase a club in a more open league, as Metalist’s owner Kurchenko has done, a much easier way to make money is to qualify for the Champions League. Even if you just take the money UEFA dishes out from TV and performance-related revenue, Shakhtar brought in £8.7 million from a dismal 2011-12 campaign where they didn’t even reach the last 16, while Chelsea’s reward as winners was £50 million. So when City, Metalist and PSG say they want to dominate Europe, they are in part dreaming of the glory – but they are not discounting the prize money they can accrue as they market their triumph to sponsors, broadcasters and fans. A Champions League triumph for PSG would vindicate Qatar’s ambitious, costly and risky rebranding strategy. The country is investing billions to not only put itself on the sporting map, but fuel its image as a Middle Eastern Las Vegas. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, secretary general of Qatar’s Olympic Committee, maintains, “Sports tourism is a big business. In Qatar we organise more than 30 events a year and the bounty off the back of these events is huge, but the investment beforehand must be equally as massive for us to succeed.” Massive is an understatement: Qatar is likely to spend a whopping £41 billion to stage the 2022 World Cup. As the only game with global mass appeal, football is the most promising way to fulfil Qatar’s strategic aims – it helps too that the ruler Sheikh Hamad has been a fervent Arsenal fan since the 1970s – but with the national team ranked 106th, the only way the country will feature in a World Cup is to host one. In the meantime, by acquiring PSG, a club sponsored by the Qatar Tourism Authority whose Ligue 1 games are broadcast on Al Jazeera, the region can raise the nation’s profile, build momentum for 2022 and acquire the know-how to raise the quality of the domestic game.

FOOTBALL CAN GIVE A POLITICIAN CREDIBILITY THAT NO SPIN DOCTOR CAN CREATE Qatar’s strategy looks like a work of subtle, Einsteinian genius when compared to Ramzan Kadyrov. The Chechen president staged a friendly against a Brazilian all-star XI in March 2011 to prove that there is more to his country than “killings and explosions”. Kadyrov, who runs Russian Premier League side Terek Grozny, even picked himself up front, scoring twice as his Chechen outfit lost 6-4 to a Brazil team which featured stars such as Romario,

7 SIGNS YOUR CLUB BELONGS TO AN OLIGARCH 1. HIS OTHER HALF LOOKS LIKE SHE’S STROLLED INTO THE DIRECTORS’ BOX OFF A CATWALK Meet Katsia, the 23-year-old Belarusian wife of Reading’s new major shareholder Anton Zingarevich and a former lingerie model for Victoria’s Secret. 2. HE SPENDS MORE ON YACHTS THAN THE PREVIOUS OWNER SPENT ON PLAYERS Anzhi benefactor Suleiman Kerimov owns the £600 million yacht Ice, which has azimuth thrusters (no, we don’t know what they are either) and a Jacuzzi on the sun deck! 3. HE HAS BEEN THROUGH AN EXPENSIVE DIVORCE It’ss not just Roman Abramovich who has had to cough up, either: Monaco’s new billionaire Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is being sued for £7.5 billion by outraged ex-wife Elena. 4. HE BULLIES PLAYERS TO PARTICIPATE IN HIDEOUS PROMOTIONAL STUNTS Blackburn’s squad had to star in a Venky’s chicken advert. As is if the poor players hadn’t suffered (and been stuffed) enough! 5. HE REBRANDS THE CLUB Vincent Tan forced Cardiff, nicknamed the Bluebirds, to change their home shirts to red because it is seen as lucky in Malaysia, while Royal Emirates Group made Getafe add ‘Team Dubai’ to their crest following their takeover. 6. HE CULLS MANAGERS SO FAST YOU CAN’T REMEMBER THEIR NAMES Leave Chelsea out of this! Saudi club Al Nasr, now run by Prince Faisal bin Turki bin Nasser, had five coaches in 2006, including the unfortunate Portuguese Artur Jorge, who, despite being sacked after just two matches in 2000, fleetingly returned to the dugout. 7. YOU DON’T KNOW WHO THE OWNERS ARE GFH-Capital, who acquired Leeds in December, is owned by Bahraini investment bank Gulf Finance House and supported by a man Ken Bates described as “a rich individual, very close to the government of Bahrain”. The identity of this mystery backer has not yet been disclosed, amidst rumours it is Bahraini royal (and Leeds fan) Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa.

Bebeto and Dunga. If Terek qualify for the Champions League, which is plausible, the Chechen strongman might find his preferred fashion combo – pinstripe suit and Kalashnikov assault rifle – contravenes the boardroom dress code at some of Europe’s stuffier clubs! Kadyrov is basically abusing football to cement his power. Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, used the game to gain it. In May 1994, the same month that AC Milan thrashed Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League final, Berlusconi’s maiden government was voted into office. One of the new prime minister’s first promises, which he never quite fulfilled, was “to make Italy like AC Milan”. Berlusconi’s political career was shaped by research suggesting that the only language that united Italians was the lingo of football. Thus his party was named Forza Italia (effectively ‘Come on Italy!’), his party’s candidates were ‘Azzurri’, and his oratory returned, with a consistency some found FEBRUARY 2013

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IT SEEMS PERTINENT TO ASK: WHAT’S IN IT FOR THESE BUSINESS MAGNATES? THE MOST INNOCENT EXPLANATION – SHEER LOVE OF FOOTBALL – CAN’T BE DISMISSED. WITHIN THE GAME, THIS PHENOMENON IS KNOWN AS ‘FAN IN THE BOX SYNDROME’.

obsessive, to football terminology, asking of one opponent, “How many championship cups have you won?” The revitalisation of a famous but moribund club convinced millions of voters he was an entrepreneurial genius and a born leader of men. Every Milan success was pumped into Italian homes by Berlusconi’s TV channels, reinforcing the idea that he won every contest he entered. In an age where politicians’ pledges are ignored – often by those who make them – success in such a charismatic, popular sport as football can give a politician a credibility that even Malcolm Tuckerstyle spin doctors can’t generate. If David Cameron had become prime minister after turning things around as chairman of his beloved Aston Villa, he wouldn’t have to feign a passion for pasties to pose as a man of the people. Of course, this strategy only works if the team succeeds. That is the challenge facing Zhu in Shanghai. He could turn his prominence into political influence – especially since Xi Jinping, the new head of the Chinese Communist Party, has outlined a three-point plan for Chinese football to reflect the country’s growing clout: qualify for the World Cup, host the World Cup and win the World Cup. Yet he needs to make headlines with results, not stunts, in order to impress China’s apparatchiks. Zhu has not yet felt it necessary to run into the changing room, brandishing a gun at players while shouting, “I will kill you all!” That was the (horrifying) 76

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Silvio Berlusconi milked AC Milan’s 1994 Champions League success to help him get elected, but since then has seen fans use matches to protest against him

highlight of Chechen entrepreneur Bulat Chagaev’s destructive reign as Neuchatel Xamax owner. The tragic nadir came when the club, which won the Swiss title in 1988, went bust a year ago, with debts in excess of £8 million. Xamax started this season in the Swiss fifth tier, the equivalent of being relegated from the Premier League to the Conference at a stroke. Not all football oligarchs are such liabilities, though. One, in particular, is sketching out a far more constructive path, which others may (and should) follow. Last September, Petro Dyminsky, the Ukrainian businessman who has been honorary president of Karpaty Lviv since 2001, signed a deal for supporters to run the club. He is not walking away – his family retain some shares and he will keep investing until it becomes self-sufficient – but decisions will be made at supporters’ club meetings and implemented by a senior manager. “There is a clear understanding that the club can’t just depend on the founder’s funds,’ said Dyminsky. “Over time it must become an independent, financially stable entity. In addition, even if I do make a decision, I need to consult others first, especially the fans. Without them, the club wouldn’t exist.” Karpaty’s prosperity is far from guaranteed but the future looks significantly brighter in Lviv than in Chelsea or Neuchatel, where the oligarchs aren’t nearly as benevolent or open to being team players.


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MIKE TYSON

Who? MIKE TYSON V TREVOR COX Where? NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND What? CONKERS OUR BONKERS FEATURE, BEAT THE PRO, SEES US PIT BOTH CELEBRITIES AND READERS AGAINST TOP SPORTS STARS IN A GAME OF THEIR CHOICE. THIS MONTH, LONGSANDS FRONT MAN TREVOR COX FACES MIKE TYSON AT CONKERS!

SPORTS TALK ALSO MILKED THE OCCASION TO CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW AS HARD-HITTING AS IRON MIKE’S FEARSOME RIGHT FIST. IN AGREEING TO CONKERS, A SPORT HE HAD MOMENTS EARLIER NEVER HEARD OF, FIND OUT WHETHER THE FORMER UNDISPUTED HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION HAD BITTEN OFF MORE THAN HE COULD CHEW… AS WELL AS WHAT EVANDER HOLYFIELD’S RIGHT EAR TASTED LIKE!

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Iron Mike took some time to warm to the idea of gifting Trevor Cox a totally free hit!

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MIKE TYSON

WHAT THE HELL IS CONKERS? Conkers is a British schoolyard sport played using the seeds of horse-chestnut trees. The first recorded game was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. The origin of the name supposedly stems from the French word cogner, which means to “hit” or “biff” – actions Tyson is tres au fait with. Q: How much do you know about conkers? A: When Trevor told me what we were doing I was like, “What the hell is conkers?” He handed me a crummy bit of string and a hazelnut that I could crush with my bare hands. I thought, “This is farcical – I knew the English were backwards, but I didn’t realise they were cavemen!” Soon though, I realised I got to whack the hell out of Trev’s nut and that’s when I started to get into it. I was quickly hooked. Conkers is a bit like boxing Frank Bruno – you get an uncontested punch, as your opponent stands there looking like a chump!

IRON DEFICIENCY Conkers are still prescribed by some witch doctors to treat iron deficiencies. They are also believed to help alleviate malaria, varicose veins, diarrhoea, frostbite and ringworm. Just rubbing a conker is thought to bring good health too. Thus, upon discovering your first one, you are advised to exclaim, “Oddly oddly onker, my first conker.” ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ Tyson, never a man for rules, directs a broad, gold-toothed grin slap-bang in the face of superstition, refusing to recount the archaic chant on the understandable grounds that he has no clue what it means. Q: Are you really as bad as people say? A: No! I am not a tough guy or killer. I just put on that act for the cameras. When I was younger I got a bit addicted to being a bad boy. People meet me now and fear I am going to eat them. They are really quite surprised to see me without my war-face on. Deep down, I am insecure. I was born a little street urchin and it was only when I met my trainer, Cus D’Amato, that my twisted brain started telling me, “God, I am invincible!” I took that persona into the ring in order to survive, but I was never comfortable with it. I always saw myself as a ratty, insecure boy – the lonely, fat kid with asthma. It was only when I started knocking the crap out of my opponents that I felt confident I wouldn’t be bullied anymore.

CON(K) ARTIST The optimum conker is uncracked, firm and symmetrical. Sadly, this isn’t Harry Potter: the conkers don’t pick you, so select your weapon wisely. Drill a hole through the middle of your chosen one, then thread through a sturdy piece of string, about 25cm long, tying a knot at one end. With the meticulous preparation over, each player then takes alternate swings at their foe’s conker, with the game continuing until one is ‘Michael Spinksed’ (i.e. brutally annihilated). As Tyson aptly puts it, “Conkers is like boxing, but with unlimited rounds until a vicious knockout occurs. It is definitely my kind of game!”

Q: Considering you didn’t like being a bad boy, did Cus make you a con artist? A: He made me a boxer. I was already a con artist, alternating between the streets and prisons of Brooklyn. Then, one day, this old Italian dude rocked up. He was mental – really extreme. I didn’t realise white people could be so vengeful until I met him. Cus never shut up about revenge. He once saw President Reagan on TV and started screaming, “Liar! Liar! Liar!” Then he asked me if I agreed. It wasn’t worth arguing. He would fight you until you came round to his view. Cus taught me not to be afraid to maim someone. Before I met him I was terrified some punk would blow my brains out. Cus changed that. He transformed me into a swashbucklin’ fighter – a knockout artist. He took away my fear, but also a bit of my humanity.

LET’S GET READY TO CRUMBLE! Iron Mike, who won 50 of his 58 fights, glares viciously at Cox, shunning his quintessentially British offer of a gentleman’s handshake. Trevor, who contemplated wearing ear muffs to avoid receiving Tyson’s trademark ‘Holyfield’ treatment, exudes a nervous yet suspiciously vinegary stench. Wryly clenching his nose, 45-year-old Mike sends out a clear caveat to his rival: “If you have dipped your conker in an illegal substance I will break your ass!”

PIGEONS AND PUMMELLINGS!

Mike Tyson was born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1966. His father, Jimmy, left him when he was two; his mother, Lorna, died four years later. Boxing trainer Cus D’Amato thus became his legal guardian. Tyson’s first fight came at the tender age of 10, when a thug ripped the head off one of his beloved pigeons on the streets of Brownsville. Even back then, enigmatic Mike harboured a bizarre fetish for birds. ”I feel ridiculous explaining why,” he reveals. “What I love about pigeons is their loyalty. They are so much like people. They keep me sane.” With some ferocious punches as accurate as a carrier pigeon, Tyson soon become boxing’s undisputed heavyweight champion, winning 50 fights, including high-profile victories over Michael Spinks and Frank Bruno. He also suffered contentious loses to Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, before retiring in 2005.

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For the first time in his career, Tyson failed to land a single hit, proving conkers is all about skill, not power!

I ALWAYS SAW MYSELF AS A RATTY, INSECURE BOY. IT WAS ONLY WHEN I STARTED KNOCKING THE CRAP OUT OF MY OPPONENTS THAT I FELT CONFIDENT I WOULDN’T BE BULLIED ANYMORE. Q: What did Evander’s ear taste like? A: Pretty damn good! It tasted of victory. The press billed me as some kind of crazy cannibal, but when I bit Evander I was just being an animal. I was the king of the jungle, like the lion. I didn’t care about boxing, and I definitely didn’t feel guilty for what I had done. Yeah, I issued an apology, but it was a fake one – the kind of thing a school bully does after he gets caught. I was just on drugs and thought I was an untouchable god. In hindsight, I regret my actions, but back then I saw chewing off Evander’s ear as not just normal but a career high.

ROUND ONE Trevor gains the honour following a routine coin toss. He shaves Tyson’s conker but, unlike Lennox Lewis in 2002, struggles to secure a direct hit. Iron Mike, who has 44 knockouts to his name, wryly strokes his trademark tattoo before taking a thundering swing yet, surprisingly, he makes minimal contact. Childish giggling promptly ensues from the Cox corner. Q: Aside from munching on Holyfield, what was your career high? A: To be honest, it was just being in the ring. Stepping inside the ropes put a ferocious hunger in my belly. I was free. A boxing ring is about the same size as the jail cell I had in juvie, but this wasn’t prison. I made the rules. My life was like a hurricane. It was a naked tornado that rips through town and leaves so much wreckage. Now I look back at it and say, “What on earth happened there?” – but during all that destruction there was this odd sense of calm. When I knocked out a boxer the madness stopped and I felt calm and alive. If we are talking specifics, holding the WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight titles at age 20 was pretty damn cool. Knocking out

Michael Spinks in Atlantic City was huge too because he had never lost. I always enjoyed beating up the Brits as well!

ROUND TWO Trevor’s sterling second effort makes ‘conkrete’ contact with Tyson’s conker but, as if made of iron, it doesn’t even flinch. Buoyed by its startling resilience, Mike vows to train his eight children into a conkers clan – a losing one, assuming they take after their erratic father. So-called Kid Dynamite again opts for an almighty swipe but, like in his final fight against Kevin McBride in 2005, fails to land a clinical blow. Q: Who are your boxing idols? A: I always respected Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. They were gods, with an actual army of worshippers. I knew I couldn’t ever imitate them though. I wasn’t articulate; I was a brute. I was more like Roberto Duran – a crazy, crotch-grabbing gangster who gave his enemies the finger, followed by a knuckle sandwich. His win against Leonard in 1980 inspired me to be a fighter. Sugar Ray was throwing hydrogen bombs and Duran dodged them all like a ballet dancer. It was just beautiful. Growing up, Jack Dempsey was another hero. I loved how vicious he was. Jack didn’t just beat you – he made you suffer. He didn’t want you dead – that would be far too easy. Jack wanted to shatter your eye socket, destroy your cheeks and leave you lying in a pool of your own blood and vomit. I learned to do the same from him.

IT’S A CONKOUT! Tyson, who embraced Islam after his release from Plainfield prison in 1995, erotically caresses his conker for good luck. He is tangibly terrified another direct hit could result in a first career conkout, so tries to psyche Cox out with a murderous scowl. His underhand tactics don’t pay off as Trevor, in one foul swoop, demolishes Iron Mike’s helpless conker, leaving it in more shards than Jesse Ferguson’s nose, which Tyson broke in his first ever televised bout. Cox gloats like a nutter and sings like the Bee Gees – he is the ‘conkerer!’ Q: Any chance of a comeback? A: Never! I look back on my boxing career and all I see is a pig – a piece of dirt, which a bunch of users lapped up like dog food. I am lucky I didn’t end up in prison for murder. I really am supposed to be dead by now. At 45, I am 20 years older than I should be. Sure, I could box one more time, and make the back page of the New York Times, but I don’t want to fall into a life of violence, drugs and liquor again. I want to die a married man, not doing a line of cocaine in a strip joint. My days of fighting and acting like a blood-thirsty conqueror are over. I want to be a husband, a father… a pussycat. FEBRUARY 2013

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DRIVE HOME

Shahzad Sheikh ENJOYS A BRIEF

BROMANCE WITH MCLAREN CHIEF TEST DRIVER CHRIS GOODWIN IN THE NEW MP4-12C SPIDER

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DRIVE HOME As part of his role, Goodwin not only gets to drive McLaren’s current models, but all their historical ones too, including the MP4/4, which lost just once in 1988 as Ayrton Senna (flanked by teammate Alain Prost) won his first drivers’ championship. My mild loathing briefly turned to childish seething as it became apparent that Goodwin is himself a pretty dab hand on the track, having not only raced in Formula One cars, but also in the British Touring Car Championship, FIA Gran Turismo (GT) Championship and European Le Mans series. To be honest, I almost got up and left in disgust. Almost, but not quite, because charismatic Chris is disarmingly friendly, humble and an all-round amazing bloke. A part of me rather fancied him! As chief tester for the MP4-12C Spider, this is a guy who has been involved in a small piece of automotive history. It is the first road car wholly designed and built by McLaren since their F1 model. “Developing the Spider was a once-in-alifetime opportunity,” beamed Goodwin, who also manages Williams’ Bruno Senna. “It was a lot of hard work, but I always enjoy a challenge. The hardest part was not to just create a fast car, but one that was a thrill to drive at all speeds. “Testing cars like the Spider has been just one part of a life-changing spell with

MP4-12C SPIDER Price: $285k Engine: 3.8-litre V8, 616bhp @ 7,500rpm, 443b ft @ 3,000-7,000rpm Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive Performance: 0-100kph 3.1s, 329kph Weight: 1,474kg

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McLaren. Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was an engineer but, parallel to my studies at Imperial College in London, I had the opportunity to race and eventually left university to pursue this dream instead. “McLaren’s executive chairman Ron Dennis was a mechanic too, so I wasn’t the first engineer to pursue this path. I first met Ron at the height of my GT racing career and, after just a few conversations, he persuaded me to drop everything and work for him. “He told me, ‘Chris, you’ll be given challenging projects, tasked with producing the most dynamic high-tech performance sports cars in the world – and you will be known for that. At the moment you’re just a lowly GT driver, but I can change all that.’ I believed every single word and thus couldn’t wait to sign for McLaren, who I have been fortunate enough to have been with ever since.” Goodwin’s first project with McLaren was to develop the SLR supercar, a joint venture with Mercedes inspired by the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut (the car which tragically took the life of Pierre Levegh in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans race). The resources for this project were quite large, but by the time he turned his hand to the MP4-12C they had increased tenfold. “Ron brought in some amazing people to work on the Spider,” revealed Goodwin. “It was scary – there were loads of top guys from Formula One and GT racing, all the best in the business.

The Spider is a sports not a race car. It has to handle perfectly and we need to understand that everyone behind the wheel is not Jenson Button.


Shahzad Sheikh is editor of Motoring Middle East . For more information about his work go to motoringme.com or email him via shahzad@motoringme.com.

“In the factory, before you even drive the car, you look around and think, ‘Wow, I better raise my game because these science geeks really know their stuff.’ It forces you to get up every day and be right on top of your game. I am surrounded by genii, so when I do take the car out for a spin I feel pressure to come back with some useful information! “What I would say is it definitely helped to have been a professional racer first. As a result, I am largely developing models that are by no means the fastest I have ever driven. That helps give me perspective on vehicle performance and always leaves a little room for improvement.” Having extracted some fascinating background info on Goodwin, I then condemned him to the passenger seat so I could enjoy a cheeky cruise around Dubai in the Spider. Given my time with the car was limited, there wasn’t much opportunity to find out just how quick it really is, but I was content to take Chris’ word for it that it can reach 100kph in 3.1 seconds. That said, it is important to note that the Spider isn’t all about speed, which is part of its appeal. “10 years ago, I was putting 90 percent of my efforts into creating the fastest possible car,” conceded Goodwin. “Yet, a decade on, I now understand that our products must be as enjoyable to drive at 30mph as they are at 100. After all, the Spider is a sports not a race car. It has to handle perfectly and we need to understand that not everyone behind the wheel is Jenson Button.” Consequently, the Spider has been calibrated to be a lot more engaging at lower speeds. I drove the coupe model last year, and the MP4-12C is far more intimate and exciting, even when crawling up Sheikh Zayed Road during Thursday night rush hour! The engine sound is more obvious and intense. The car feels extraordinarily zippy, but what impressed me most is the manner in which the power presents itself. Whereas previously there was an efficient drone to the engine, now there is an edginess – the car buzzes like a hyperactive child on Christmas Eve. The Spider’s sensations have definitely been dialled up a notch. Part of the reason stems from a plethora of rolling revisions in the middle of last year – just six months after the car went on sale – that have helped improve engine output and dynamics. In many cases, these have been retrospectively fitted after purchase, and it is this type of meticulous customer service that really sets McLaren apart from their rivals. Given this, and its swish silver exterior, it is pretty hard not to get tangled up in the Spider’s web, although do bear in mind you can’t fit eight legs inside – the car is only made for two! FEBRUARY 2013

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CLASSIFIEDS

YOUR GUIDE TO SPORT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

BASKETBALL MPAC SPORTS The UAE’s No.1 basketball academy Location: Abu Dhabi  +971 5 0142 9330 * info@mpacsports.com  mpacsports.com

BOXING HADDINS GYM Abu Dhabi’s premier fitness centre Location: Zayed Sports City  +971 5 0800 6492 * info@haddins.com haddins.com

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LE MERIDIEN DUBAI Box on the beach Location: Garhoud  +971 4 702 2430 * info@lemeridien-dubai.com  lemeridien-dubai.com

CRICKET ICC GLOBAL CRICKET ACADEMY The place new Tendulkars are born Location: Dubai Sports City  +971 4 448 1355 * iccgca@dxbsport.com  iccglobalcricketacademy.com G FORCE CRICKET ACADEMY Grass roots cricket at its best

Location: Karama  +971 4 396 9994 * jasapara@emirates.net.ae  gforcecricketacademy.com MAX TALENT Maximise your talent Location: Dubai Sports City  +971 4 283 1705 * info@maxtalent.org  maxtalent.org YOUNG TALENTS ACADEMY Making cricket cool Location: Mirdif  +971 5 5107 5277 * shazad@young-talent.com  young-talent.com


GOLF ABU DHABI CITY GOLF CLUB Boasts the UAE’s first two-tiered range Location: Al Mushrif  +971 2 445 9600 * office@adcitygolf.ae  adcitygolf.ae

Location: Nad Al Sheba  +971 5 0284 5061 * kirkcpfa@gmail.com  cp-fa.com DUBAI FOOTBALL ACADEMY A world-class training facility Location: Sports City  +971 4 425 1111 * football@dxbsport.com  footballacademydubai.com DUPLAYS Play sport. Be social Location: Dubai Media City  +971 5 5224 0187 * info.dxb@duplays.com  duplays.com INSPORTZ Air-conditioned indoor sports facility Location: Al Quoz  +971 4 347 5833 * insportz@eim.ae  insportzclub.com INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL ACADEMY UAE’s largest grass roots football family Location: Al Barsha  +971 4 454 1683 * info@ifasport.com  ifasport.com

Scot Stephen Gallacher equalled Thomas Bjorn’s four-day course record of 22-under-par to win February’s Desert Classic – his first European Tour victory since 2004

FOOTBALL AL AHLI SPORTS CLUB Dubai’s top football club Location: Airport Road  +971 4 672 122 * info@al-ahliclub.com  al-ahliclub.com AL NASR LEISURELAND Appreciate the infinite pleasures of leisure Location: Karama  +971 4 337 1234 * alnasrll@eim.ae  alnasrll.com CARLTON PALMER ACADEMY First-class coaching by ex-pros

ABU DHABI GOLF CLUB Unleash the Tiger in you Location: Sas Al Nakhi  +971 2 558 8990 * info@adgolfclub.com  adgolfclub.com AL AIN EQUESTRIAN, SHOOTING & GOLF CLUB Shoot balls and bullets Location: Al Ain  +971 3 768 4888 * info@aesgc.ae  aesgc.ae AL BADIA GOLF CLUB Golf with a festival atmosphere Location: Festival City  +971 4 601 0101 * albadiagolf@ichdfc.ae  albadiagolfclub.ae AL HAMRA GOLF CLUB Excellent value and an even better course Location: Ras Al Khaimah  +971 7 244 7474 * info@alhamragolf.com  alhamragolf.com ARABIAN RANCHES A true desert challenge Location: Emirates Road  +971 4 366 3000 * golfacademy@arabianranchesgolf.ae  arabianranchesgolfdubai.com

JEBEL ALI CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE The pitches the pros use Location: Jebel Ali  +971 4 883 0828 * chris.brown@jaihotels.com  jebelali-international.com

DOHA GOLF CLUB Qatar’s hidden gem Location: Doha  +974 4 4960 7777 * info@dohagolfclub.com  dohagolfclub.com

MANCHESTER CITY SOCCER SCHOOL Are you the next Aguero? Location: Zayed Sports City  +971 5 610 9187 * simon.hewitt@mcfc.co.uk  mcfc.co.uk

DUBAI CREEK GOLF & YACHT CLUB The wettest track in the UAE Location: Dubai Creek  +971 4 295 6000 * info@dubaigolf.com  dubaigolf.com

MANCHESTER UNITED SOCCER SCHOOL Learn football the United way Location: Airport Road  +971 2 449 8480 * muss@manutdsoccerschools.ae  manutdsoccerschools.ae SOCCER CIRCUS The world’s first football-themed tourist attraction Location: Mirdif  +971 4 231 6275 * info@soccercircus.com  soccercircus.com

THE ELS CLUB Els, Westwood and McIlroy all train here Location: Dubai Sports City  +971 4 425 1010 * golf@elsclubdubai.com  elsclubdubai.com

Location: Jebel Ali  +971 4 883 6000 * jagrs@jaihotels.com  jebelali-international.com JUMEIRAH GOLF ESTATES The Race to Dubai ends here Location: Dubai Sports City  +971 4 390 3333 * info@jumeirahgolfestates.com  jumeirahgolfestates.com ROYAL GOLF CLUB Bahrain’s premier golf destination Location: Riffa  +973 1 775 0777 * golfevents@theroyalgolfclub.com  theroyalgolfclub.com SAADIYAT BEACH GOLF CLUB One of Gary Player’s finest creations Location: Saadiyat Island  +971 2 557 8000 * info@sbgolfclub.ae  sbgolfclub.ae SHARJAH GOLF & SHOOTING CLUB Where golf is never over-Sharjed Location: Sharjah  +971 6 548 7777 * info@golfandshootingshj.com  golfandshootingshj.com THE ADDRESS MONTGOMERIE Address your golf swing here Location: Emirates Hills  +971 4 390 5600 * info@themontgomerie.ae  themontgomerie.com THE WAVE MUSCAT A Greg Norman links course that is making waves Location: Muscat  +968 2 452 4649 * info@thewavemuscat.com  thewavemuscat.com TOWER LINKS The most underrated club in the UAE Location: Ras Al Khaimah  +971 7 227 8555 * membership@towerlinks.com  towerlinks.com YAS LINKS The UAE’s top track Location: Yas Island  +971 2 810 7777 * info@yaslinks.com  yaslinks.com

EMIRATES GOLF CLUB Home of the Desert Classic since 1989 Location: Emirates Hills  +971 4 380 2222 * info@dubaigolf.com  dubaigolf.com JEBEL ALI GOLF RESORT & SPA Unique, affordable and enjoyable

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CLASSIFIEDS

SPORTS CALENDAR 31 JAN-17 FEB, CRICKET: WOMEN’S WORLD CUP, INDIA

21-24 FEB, GOLF: WGC MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP, TUCSON

9 FEB, CRICKET: 1ST T20I, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, AUKLAND

22 FEB, RUGBY LEAGUE: LEEDS V MELBOURNE, HEADINGLEY

9-10 FEB, ATHLETICS: UK CHAMPIONSHIPS, SHEFFIELD

23 FEB, CRICKET: 3RD ODI, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, AUCKLAND

12 FEB, CRICKET: 2ND T20I, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, HAMILTON

24 FEB, FOOTBALL: LEAGUE CUP FINAL, SWANSEA V BRADFORD, WEMBLEY

15 FEB, CRICKET: 3RD T20I, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, WELLINGTON

1-3 MAR, ATHLETICS: EUROPEAN INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS, GOTHENBURG

16 FEB, ATHLETICS: IAAF INDOOR GRAND PRIX, BIRMINGHAM

5-9 MAR, CRICKET: 1ST TEST, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, DUNEDIN

16-17 FEB, FOOTBALL: FA CUP 5TH ROUND

7-10 MAR, GOLF: WGC-CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP, MIAMI

17 FEB, CRICKET: 1ST ODI, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, HAMILTON

7-17 MAR, TENNIS: INDIAN WELLS MASTERS, CALIFORNIA

18 FEB-2 MAR, TENNIS: DUBAI TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS, AVIATION CLUB

9-10 MAR, FOOTBALL: FA CUP 6TH ROUND

20 FEB, CRICKET: 2ND ODI, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, NAPIER

13-17 MAR, CRICKET: 2ND TEST, NEW ZEALAND V ENGLAND, WELLINGTON

HORSE RIDING HOOFBEATZ Horses and humans in harmony Location: Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club  +971 5 0181 0401 * info@hoofbeatz.com  hoofbeatz.com

ORIENTAL KARATE & KOBUDO CLUB Kicking ass since 1987 Location: Airport Road  +971 2 445 7375 * karate@emirates.net.ae  orientalkarate.com SHOTOKAN KARATE UAE’s first Japanese sports centre Location: Sharjah  +971 6 554 6160 * info@shotokanuae.com  shotokanuae.com

MOTOR SPORTS

MARTIAL ARTS DUBAI AIKIDO CLUB Live the Samurai dream Location: Al Wasl Road  +971 5 0795 2716 * aikido.jr@gmail.com  aikido.ae DUBAI LADIES CLUB Fight in a tranquil ambience Location: Jumeirah Beach  +971 4 349 9922 * marhaba@dubailadiesclub.com  dubailadiesclub.com MUAY THAI War on the shore Location: Sheikh Zayed Road  +971 5 5311 3503 * info@muaythai.ae  muaythai.ae

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FERRARI WORLD Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster Location: Yas Island  +971 2 496 8001 * sales@faraleisure.com  ferrariworldabudhabi.com YAS MARINA CIRCUIT Home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Location: Yas Island  +971 6 559 9999 * customerservice@yasmarinacircuit.com  yasmarinacircuit.com

POLO DUBAI POLO & EQUESTRIAN CLUB The place for camel polo Location: Dubai Studio City  +971 4 361 8111 * info@poloclubdubai.com  poloclubdubai.com DUBAI POLO ACADEMY Learn the world’s oldest team game Location: Arabian Ranches

 +971 5 0887 9847 * info@dubaipoloacademy.com  dubaipoloacademy.com

RUGBY

DUBAI FROGS ‘Oui nide iou’ Location: Umm Nahad  + 971 5 0452 9596 * im@aen90.com  dubai-frogs.com

ARABIAN POTBELLIES True barbarian rugby in the Middle East Location: Jebel Ali  +971 5 6603 1989 * francoscott@hotmail.com  arabianpotbellies.com

DUBAI HURRICANES Cooking up a rugby storm Location: Al Ain Road  +971 5 0578 1479 * hurricanepauly@hotmail.com  dubaihurricanes.com

DUBAI EXILES An ‘exilent’ club Location: Al Ain Road  +971 5 0459 5693 * chairman@dubaiexiles.com  dubaiexiles.com

JEBEL ALI DRAGONS Play with fire Location: Jebel Ali  +971 5 0657 9827 * woodtj@emirates.net.ae  jebelalidragonsrfc.com SHARJAH WANDERERS Over 700 active members Location: Sharjah  +971 6 566 2105 * swsc@eim.ae  sharjahwanderers.com

SAILING ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL SAILING CLUB A cosmopolitan sailing experience Location: Abu Dhabi Corniche  +971 2 681 5566 * sailing@adimsc.com  adimsc.com ABU DHABI SAILING CLUB Your home from home Location: Meena Zayed  +971 2 673 1111 * info@the-club.com  the-club.com


SHTOHT E

OF MONTH

Rory McEnroe

!

Rory McIlroy might consider changing his surname to McEnroe! Since courting Caroline Wozniacki his tennis game has improved significantly. It seems the 23-year-old is just as talented with a fuzzy yellow ball as a hard white one. Rory even beat former British No.1 Tim Henman at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Admittedly, the pair only played to three, but it still counts as his first professional scalp!

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CLASSIFIEDS * jagrs@jaihotels.com  jebelali-international.com THE RITZ-CARLTON DUBAI BEACH CLUB Tennis in a five-star environment Location: Ritz Carlton Dubai  +971 4 399 4000 * dxbrz.leads@ritzcarlton.com  ritzcarlton.com

WATERSPORTS AL BOOM DIVING Leading dive operator in the UAE Location: Al Aqah Beach Resort  +971 4 342 2993 * abdiving@emirates.net.ae  alboomdiving.com CLUB MINA 500m private beach and club Location: Le Meridien Mina Seyahi  +971 4 399 3333 * club@lemeridien-minaseyahi.com  lemeridien-minaseyahi.com DUBAI AQUARIUM An underwater zoo Location: Dubai Mall  +971 4 448 5200 * enquiries@thedubaiaquarium.com  thedubaiaquarium.com

DUBAI OFFSHORE SAILING CLUB Internationally acclaimed sailing club Location: Umm Suqeim 1  +971 4 394 1669 * administration@doscuae.com  dosc.ae

SWIMMING AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SWIM SCHOOLS Get an aquatic education Location: Fairmont Dubai  +971 4 386 5718 * swim@aiss.ae  aiswimschools.com HAMILTON AQUATICS Learn to swim Location: Jumeirah  +971 5 0250 5216 * info@hamiltonaquatics.ae  hamiltonaquatics.ae MUSHRIF PARK Dubai’s largest, oldest park Location: Mirdif  +971 4 288 3624 * info@mushrifcentralpark.ae  mushrifcentralpark.ae STA AL WASL SWIMMING ACADEMY Become a stronger swimmer Location: Al Wasl Club  +971 4 446 7400 * swimming@vipeduc.com  vipeduc.com

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TENNIS CLARK FRANCIS TENNIS An ace academy Location: Garhoud  +971 5 6719 7042 * tennis@clarkfrancistennis.com  clarkfrancistennis.com CLUB JOUMANA Caroline Wozniacki sometimes swings by Location: Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa  +971 4 814 5555

EMIRATES DIVING ASSOCIATION Inspiring people to care about our oceans since 1995 Location: Dubai Creek  +971 4 393 9390 * diving@emiratesdiving.com  emiratesdiving.com GLOBAL SCUBA DIVE Go on a diving break to Oman Location: Oman  +968 2 469 2346 * enquiries@global-scuba.com  global-scuba.com MONTY’S ROWING SCHOOL Getting fit is just a stroke away Location: Al Boom Tourist Village  +971 5 0738 0910 * details@montysrowingschool.com  montysrowingschool.com

DUBAI WATER SPORT ACADEMY Try your hand at some of Dubai’s wackier water sports Location: Dubai Marina  +971 5 0478 0114 * info@bristol-middleeast.com  bristol-holding.com

NAUTICA 1992 Fish, windsurf, paraglide and kayak Location: Mina Siyahi Beach  +971 5 0426 2415 * info@nautica1992.ae  nautica1992.ae

EASY DIVERS EMIRATES Enjoy an underwater adventure Location: Emirates Hills  +971 4 447 2247 * info@easydiversemirates.com  easydiversemirates.com

7 SEAS DIVERS UAE’s oldest dive centre Location: Khor Fakkan  +971 9 238 7400 * bestdive@emirates.net.ae 7seasdivers.com



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